Mar 1, 2010
ARTIST OF THE MONTH C.M.RUSSELL
CHARLIE IN HIS STUDIO
LOG CABIN STUDIO
WAITNG FOR A CHINOOK
LEWIS AND CLARK ON THE LOWER MISSOURI
BRONC TO BREAKFAST
In the late 90’s I was very privileged to be selected to participate in the annual C.M. Russell auction. It was actually my jumping off point, after that show I was accepted in many galleries in the southwestern states.
Over the next several years my husband and I would travel to Great Falls Montana in March, sometimes driving on icy roads and snow storms to be part of this wonderful exhibit and auction.
It was held in a very large hotel, most of the rooms were cleared out and then artists from all over the country would pay a fee to use the room for their personal gallery.
We would arrive and start putting up all the fixtures we had carried on the top of our van, to hang all of my art on. It took several hours to set up but when we finally finished we had a wonderful display.
The people who came to the show paid a large fee to get in; this gave them the entrance to the auctions, a special breakfast, a “fast draw” where artists painted or sculpted a work in 60 minutes that would be auctioned off and entrance to all the mini galleries.
It was fun meeting people from all over the country and Canada as they came through our gallery, it was exciting to see my art sell at the auction. Selling my art in my gallery and seeing people who really liked it was very gratifying. After several years I had my own collectors that came back time and again to make a purchase.
The C.M. Russell museum is a great place to visit if you like western art. Russell was always one of my favorite artists and his life intrigued me. How wonderful to live when the trappers and Indians were around, Charlie would actually visit with them and paint what he saw.
I especially was moved when I saw his studio, it was so unique, I could envision him there painting one of his many paintings.
So with that I would like to introduce the “Artist of the Month” Charles Marion Russell .
Charles Marion Russell was born March 19, 1864, St. Louis, Missouri
Known as 'the cowboy artist, Russell was also a storyteller and author.
Russell created more than 2,000 paintings of cowboys, Indians, and landscapes set in the Western United States, in addition to bronze sculptures. Art was always a part of Russell's life. Growing up in Missouri, he drew sketches and made clay figures of animals. Russell had an intense interest in the wild west and would spend hours reading about it. Russell would watch explorers and fur traders who frequently came through Missouri. At the age of sixteen, Russell left school and went to Montana to work on a sheep ranch.
In 1882, by the age of eighteen, Russell was working as a cattle hand. The harsh winter of 1886 and 1887 provided the inspiration for a painting that would give Russell his first taste of publicity. According to stories, Russell was working on the O-H Ranch in the Judith Basin of Central Montana when the ranch foreman received a letter from the owner, asking how the cattle herd had weathered the winter. Instead of a letter, the ranch foreman sent a postcard-sized watercolor Russell had painted of gaunt steer being watched by wolves under a gray winter sky. The ranch owner showed the postcard to friends and business acquaintances and eventually displayed it in a shop window in Helena, Montana. After this, work began to come steadily to the artist. Russell's caption on the sketch, "Waiting for a Chinook", became the title of the drawing, and Russell later created a more detailed version which is one of his best-known works.
Russell the artist arrived on the cultural scene at a time when the "wild west" was being chronicled and sold back to the public in many forms, ranging from the dime novel to the wild west show and soon evolving into motion picture shorts and features of the silent era, the westerns that have become a movie staple. Russell was fond of these popular art forms, and made many friends among the well-off collectors of his works, including actors and film makers such as William S. Hart, Harry Carey, Will Rogers and Douglas Fairbanks. Russell also kept up with other artists of his class, including painter Edward "Ed" Borein and Will Crawford the illustrator.
Russell’s log studio was built in 1903 and is next-door to his home. Made of western red cedar telephone poles, the studio is filled with authentic cowboy gear and Indian artifacts that Russell collected and used as he painted or sculpted. This is where Charlie created many of his significant works!
For forty- six years, Russell worked to create more than 4000 paintings and sculptures representing the "true" West. In 1896, Russell married his wife Nancy. In 1897, they moved from the small community of Cascade, Montana to the lively county seat of Great Falls, where Russell spent the majority of his life from that point on. There, Russell continued with his art, becoming a local icon and gaining the praise of critics worldwide. As Russell kept primarily to himself, Nancy is generally given credit in making Russell an internationally known artist. She set up many shows for Russell throughout the United States and in London creating many followers of Russell.
The C. M. Russell Museum Complex located in Great Falls, Montana houses more than 2,000 Russell artworks, personal objects, and artifacts.
Russell's mural entitled Lewis and Clark Meeting the Flathead Indians hangs in the state capitol building in Helena, Montana. Russell's 1918 painting Piegans sold for $5.6 million dollars at a 2005 auction .
C.M. Russell home is a blue, two-story frame house built in 1900 for a meager $800! It is furnished with period pieces as well as items from the Russell family. In its time, it was located in the most stylish district in Great Falls. Charles M. Russell died on October 24, 1926 in the front bedroom of this home
On the day of Russell's funeral in 1926, all the children in Great Falls were released from school to watch the funeral procession. Russell's coffin was displayed in a glass sided coach, pulled by four black horses.
He was the first "Western" artist to live the majority of his life in the West. For this reason, Charlie knew his subject matter intimately, setting the standard for many western artists to follow. The life he observed and participated in greatly influenced his art and personal philosophy. He painted in a time when there was significant interest in the West. Charlie's works were popular because of their narrative subject matter, unique style, and forceful action. In addition, he had the ability to accurately illustrate specific times or events in western history.