When Charlie Bair arrived in Montana in 1883, he had been preceded by over 100 years of history that had irrevocably shaped the West he would settle in. Like many before him he came seeking gold, but he also came for the land and riches that hard work could provide a poor, young farmer from Ohio. While financially successful, Bair’s most worthy accomplishment was leaving two daughters who ultimately recycled the family’s wealth back into the state. Through scholarships and grants for education, art, and other philanthropic activities, they gave back. Once on their own they proved to be two formidable women who ran the family’s ranch on their own terms and planned that the future of their estates would make a difference.
Named by his daughters in his honor, The Charles M. Bair Family Museum in Martinsdale, Montana is an art and history museum that seeks to preserve, promote, and exhibit the history that shaped the times the family lived through, and, by extension, the heritage of all those associated within the broader context of life in Montana. The museum strives to create an experience for every viewer.
This season the museum features two original exhibits alongside the Bairs’ permanent collection of western art, European and American paintings, Navajo rugs, Plains Indian beadwork, and Native American basketry. The museum is honored to present a small selection of George Catlin (1796- 1872) lithographs from the artist’s 19th century North American Indian portfolio. This exhibit is on loan from the Larson Collection. In the Curtis Gallery viewers will find The Power of Portraits- Haunting Records of Individuals, landscapes, and Cultures Lost. The exhibit includes a selection of original photogravures from Volumes 1-5 of Edward Curtis’s (1886-1952) twenty volume series titled The North American Indian. Charlie Bair was a friend of artists Charles M Russell (1859-1926) and Joseph H. Sharp (1859-1953) and he was one of the earliest collectors of their work. The Western Gallery features several of their paintings. In the Blue Gallery, named after Marguerite Bair’s favorite color, viewers can enjoy the variety of paintings collected by Mary, Alberta and Marguerite Bair, including everyone’s favorite, the firelight paintings of French artist Eduoard Cortes (1882-1969). The museum also offers docent-led house tours of the Bair home featuring a large collection of English silver and European antiques. Tours start at11amandareonthehourwiththelasttourat4pm. The Barn features a popular gift shop, family memorabilia and outside picnic tables.
The Bair Museum is open Memorial Day through the end of October. Starting Memorial Day weekend the museum is open seven days a week through Labor Day. After Labor Day the museum is open five days a week and closed on Monday and Tuesdays. Hours are always 10 am to 5 pm with the last house tour at 4 pm. Visit The Bair—the perfect day trip!