Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Documenting the American West

Writing about the American West, authors look for documentation, diaries and photos are a great way to get a handle on the lure, the majesty, and the mystery of the land and its people. To understand the grit and struggle normal cattlemen used to survive, I choose to use paintings. One of my favorite western painters is Charlie Russell. 

                                                           Charles Marion Russell 
                                               use of picture from the location below.

Charles Marion Russell was born on March 19, 1864 and produced over 2,000 paintings, sculptures, pen and ink sketches, water colors, all depicting the Native Americans, Cowboys, and landscapes that layer our dreams. He grew up in Missouri watching the explorers and fur traders moving through on their way to the mountains. These men would peak his interest in the wild west and move him toward the local library where he would read anything he could get his hands on.  By the age of 16, Charlie or “Kid Russell” would give up on school and head toward Montana
There, he worked many odd jobs, from sheep ranching to hunting and trapping, never setting down any roots until he met up with Jake Hoover. Hoover owned a ranch and it was under his guidance, that Charlie learned many ways of the west. His water colors depicting the terrible winter of 1886 -1887 still bring a chill to your bones when you look at them. At age 32, Charlie married his wife, Nancy and with her backing, his works became sought after collectibles for people like Harry Carey, William S. Hart, Will Rodgers, and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. 

Charlie passed away on October 24, 1926. In his honor the schools of Helena closed so that the children could attend the funeral. Charlie was brought to his final resting place in a horse drawn, glass hearse. His work will stand the test of time. The colors and land he captured will be forever tucked in the hearts of those who dream about the old west. 

If you are ever in Great Falls, Montana, be sure to take time and visit C.M. Russell Museum Complex and see many of his pieces, personal objects, and artifacts. Other places holding Charlie’s pictures are the Montana Historical Society, Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Amon Carter Museum of American Art, and the Sid Richardson Museum.

A taste of Charlie's work 

Waiting for a Chinook 
Picture courtesty of www.charlesmarionrussell.org

Until next time, happy reading, 

Nan O'Berry

1 comment:

GiniRifkin said...

HI: enjoyed your interesting post. Great overview of Russell's life.
Gini Rifkin