Thursday, September 19, 2019

Charles M. Russell, Painter of Old Montana

Charles Marion Russell (1864-1926) was born in Missouri, left at age 16, and spent most of his adult life in or near Great Falls, Montana. He was a self-taught painter and illustrator who depicted Montana scenes literally thousands of times during his career. He and Frederic Remington (an Easterner who attended Yale and had some art training) are generally regarded as the premiere artists of the northern plains frontier genre. Background on Russell is here.

I'm speculating, but from what I've read so far on the internet, it seems likely that Russell was little exposed to the mainstream artistic fashions of his day. He essentially was an illustrator/reporter, taking care to depict his subjects as accurately as he could. What's important is that he also had a good eye for color and the atmosphere of his settings. In short, he was an untutored "natural."


Indian on Horseback - 1898
Note the treatment of the background: sophisticated for a supposed amateur.

Seein' Santa - 1910
Russell havin' a little fun.

When Shadows Hint Death
It might have taken you a minute to notice the shadows on the opposite hillside.

Trail of the Iron Horse - 1924
Auctioned for $1.9 million in 2014.

A rare example of atypical subject matter.

When Law Dulls the Edge of Chance - 1915
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police get their man.

When the Land Belonged to God
Formerly on display in the Montana capitol building.

Lewis and Clark Meeting Indians at Ross’ Hole - 1912
On display in the Montana capitol building.

1 comment:

DavidB said...

Thank you for these selections. My dad introduced me to him as his favorite artist, now mine too.