- Associated Press - Monday, June 22, 2015

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - Artist and historian Robert F. “Bob” Morgan, the founder of Helena’s Western Rendezvous of Art, has died of kidney failure. He was 85.

Morgan’s son, Bob Morgan, told the Independent Record (https://bit.ly/1LgrTMA ) that his father had been on dialysis for the past year, but decided “he had had enough.” He died Saturday at St. Peter’s Hospital in Helena.

Morgan once described his paintings as scenes of a “Montana that is gone, and wildlife.” He painted murals depicting the Lewis and Clark Expedition for the Montana Historical Society Museum, paintings representing Helena’s history and Montana wildlife.

Sue Near, the development and marketing officer for the historical society, described Morgan as a humble artist who was always learning and who was willing to share his knowledge with others.

“He’s as much a part of this place as anybody ever was and he’s going to leave a big hole,” Near said Monday. “But he’ll always be here.”

Morgan was an exhibits designer at the Montana Historical Society when it opened in the 1950s and helped build its original display cases. He was an assistant curator before leaving in 1957. He returned in 1962, working as curator for a decade before leaving to focus on his art.

Morgan contributed pen and ink sketches to illustrate stories in “Montana, The Magazine of Western History,” a quarterly published by the Montana Historical Society, Near said.

Over the years, he also became an expert on western artist Charles M. Russell.

Morgan served on the Society’s board of trustees and remained an active volunteer.

“Bob was a friend and mentor to so many of us over the years,” Bruce Whittenberg, society director, said in a statement. “Although there’s a huge hole in the heart of the Montana Historical Society, we will always celebrate the joy that Bob brought to so many through his art, his stories and his family.”

Morgan was born in Helena in 1929 and graduated from Helena High in 1947. He married Genevieve Basti in September 1948.

Morgan is survived by his wife, Gen, and their five children.

A funeral Mass is scheduled for noon Thursday at the Cathedral of St. Helena followed by burial with military honors at the Montana State Veterans Cemetery at Fort Harrison.

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