September 12, 2019

Olga Ross Hannon, artist


by Kirby Lambert, Outreach and Interpretation Manager

Olga Ross Hannon
(1890-1947)

Olga Ross Hannon was born in Moline, Illinois, and educated at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, the Art Student’s League in New York City, and The School of Fine and Applied Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  An extensive traveler, Hannon also studied widely in Europe where she focused her study on traditional arts and crafts.

Life In The Open – Crow Fair
Olga Ross Hannon
Watercolor, 1941
Montana Historical Society Collection, 1977.39.236
Gift of Jack and Isabel Haynes
Hannon worked as a teacher and administrator at various institutions before moving to Montana in 1921 to head the art department at Montana State College (MSC) in Bozeman.  In her capacity as department chair, a position she held until her death, Hannon worked tirelessly to strengthen the school’s art program, especially in the field of painting.  In addition to hands on instruction in the classroom, she augmented students’ development by organizing a chapter of Delta Phi Delta, an art honorary fraternity, on the MSC campus, and serving as the national president of that organization for eight years. She was sponsor of the college art club and the Spurs, a sophomore women’s service organization.

Hannon’s contributions to the development of the arts in Montana were not limited to her work on campus.  She organized the Bozeman Chapter of the American Federation of the Arts and maintained a membership in the Western Association of Museum Directors.  She held various offices in the Montana Education Association, chaired the selection committee for Montana paintings and sculptures to be exhibited at the New York World’s Fair in 1939, and served as the Montana representative for the American Artists Professional League.  In addition, she was a regular contributor to various professional and education publications.

During summers away from Bozeman, Hannon traveled and studied around the globe, or taught art courses at universities and institutes ranging from Maine to Colorado.  While traveling, she collected artworks created by the indigenous peoples of the countries she visited, and gathered Plains Indian art from Montana and the surrounding region to strengthen the college’s art collection.  In the early 1940’s she began a project to record traditional Blackfeet tipi designs that was completed by Jessie Wilber after Hannon’s death.


Throughout her career as an educator Hannon remained active as an artist.  Oils and watercolors were her favored media but she was also quite proficient at lithography, etching and wood block printing.  Subjects commonly depicted in Hannon’s paintings included Montana’s historic mining camps and other early settlements as well as the arts and customs of the Big Sky’s Native American residents.  






                                                                                                                                   

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