Let’s Talk History – Charlie Marrion Russell aka (Kid Russell

Charles Marion Russel – Born March 19, 1864 was an artist of the Old American West. Russell created more than 2,000 paintings of cowboys, Indians, and landscapes set in the Western United States and in Alberta, Canada, in addition to bronze sculptures. Russell was also a storyteller and author.

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. Russell learned to ride horses at Hazel Dell Farm near Jerseyville, Illinois on a famous Civil War horse called “Great Britain”. Russell’s instructor was Col. William H. Fulkerson who had married into the Russell family. At the age of sixteen, Russell left school and went to Montana to work on a sheep ranch.

Russell came to Montana in 1880 at the age of 16. After an unsuccessful stint working on a sheep ranch, he found work with a hunter and trapper turned rancher named Jake Hoover, who owned a ranch in the Judith Basin, and from whom Russell learned much about the ways of the west. The two men remained lifelong friends.

                                             :Below is a scene from the Judith Basin : 

Below is the only one known image of Jake Hoover : 

After a brief visit to his family in 1882, he returned to Montana, where he remained for the rest of his life. He worked as a cowboy for a number of outfits, and documented the harsh winter of 1886-1887 in a number of watercolors. Russell was working on the O-H Ranch in the Judith Basin of Central Montana at the time, 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.

-Below are two Painting from C.M.R – 1 being his C.M.R’s cabin on the O-H Ranch 2 Being “Waiting for a Chinook” – 

Beginning in 1888, Russell spent a period of time living with the Blood Indians, a branch of the Blackfeet nation. It is believed that much of his intimate knowledge of Native American culture came from this period. Upon returning to white culture in 1889, he found the Judith Basin to be filling up with settlers, so worked in various more open places for a couple of years before settling in the area of Great Falls, Montana in 1892 in an attempt to make a living as a full-time artist.

-Russell at work in The Amon CArter Museum – 

In 1896, Russell married his wife Nancy. He was 32 and she was 18. In 1897, they moved from the small community of Cascade, Montana to the bustling 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 celebrity and gaining the acclaim of critics worldwide. As Russell was not skilled in marketing his work, 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.

-Below is a Christmas Greeting Card along with a Poem Russell used to send out, A self portrait was always used – 

Card Read’s –  (Best wishes for your Christmas/Is all you get from me/’Cause I ain’t no Santa Claus/Don’t own no Christmas tree./But if wishes was health and money/I’d fill your buck-skin poke/Your doctor would go hungry/An’ you never would be broke.” )

In 1913, Russell painted Wild Horse Hunters, which depicts riders capturing wild horses, each band of which is dominated by a stallion. He used as much color as an artist could on his mountain landscapes. 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 andDouglas Fairbanks. Russell also kept up with other artists of his ilk, including fellow Old West painter Edgar Samuel Paxson, painter Edward “Ed” Borein and Will Crawford the illustrator.

                                                     -Wild Horse Hunters – 

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.

                                                        -Funeral Image – 

A collection of short stories called Trails Plowed Under was published a year after his death. Also, in 1929, Russell’s wife, Nancy, published a collection of his letters in which was titled Good Medicine.

We Hope you guy’s/Gals enjoyed this write up,  Below are some of Charlie’s Goods –

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