Sunday, March 19, 2017

Happy birthday, Charlie Russell!!!

Born March 19, 1864 in St. Louis, Charles Marion Russell traveled to Montana at the age of 16. He became a cowboy in the Judith Basin, and a self-trained artist in pencil, charcoal, and watercolor to while away the time. In February 1887, he created his masterpiece, "Last of the 5,000". Russell had been asked by a Texas ranch-owner to assess whether any of his cattle in Montana had weathered the harsh winter of 1886-1887. Russell drew this small watercolor as his report.

Russell spent a great deal of time with Native Americans, and in 1888 traveled to what is now Glacier Montana to spend a year living among the Piegan Blackfoot. In 1892, Russell moved to the small town of Cascade, Montana. The 32-year-old Russell married 18-year-old Nancy Cooper in 1896, and the couple moved to Great Falls in 1897. There, the couple built a log cabin home, and later a two-story clapboard house adjacent to it.

Russell was a full-time artist after 1896. He produced about 4,000 works of art, including oil and watercolor paintings, drawings, and sculptures in wax, clay, plaster, and bronze.

Although less well-known than Frederic Remington, Russell was widely hailed as the most realistic of the Western painters of the 1890s and early 20th century. He got every detail right, and often gently chided Remington for putting a squaw's saddle on a brave's horse or for depicting the wrong gun in the hands of a Crow warrior.

Russell died of heart failure on October 24, 1926, at the age of 62. He and his wife never had children, but adopted a son, Jack, in 1916.

Russell's "Piegans" sold in 2005 for $5.6 million, and in 2008 his "The Hold Up (20 Miles to Deadwood)" sold for $5.2 million and his bronze "Buffalo Hunt" sold for $4.1 million. In July 2009, Russell's 1907 gouache "The Truce" went for $2.03 million. In July 2014, Russell's "Trail of the Iron Horse" watercolor sold for $1.9 million, while "Dakota Chief" was auctioned for $1.1 million. Even small pencil sketches now routinely sell for $25,000.

About 15 percent of Russell's works are held by the C.M. Russell Museum in Great Falls, Montana. The museum also has more than 2,000 Russell personal objects and artifacts, and maintains the Russell log cabin studio and house as well.

Other major collections are held by the Montana Historical Society in Helena, Montana; the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming; the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth, Texas; and the Sid Richardson Museum in Fort Worth, Texas.

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