Charles Marion Russell USA

3-19-1864 St. Louis, USA - 10-24-1926 Great Falls, USA

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Russell, Charles Marion

At the age of sixteen, Charles Marion Russell left school and went to Montana to work on a sheep ranch. After an unsuccessful stint working on a sheep ranch, 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  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 Charles Marion 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.

Beginning in 1888, Charles Marion Russell spent a period 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.

In 1896, Russell married his wife Nancy. He was 32 and she was 18. As Russell was not skilled in marketing his work, Nancy is generally given credit in making Charles Marion Russell an internationally known artist. She set up many shows for Russell throughout the United States and in London, creating many followers of Russell.

Charles Marion 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 evolved into motion picture shorts and features of the silent era, the westerns that have become a movie staple.

Charles Marion Russell's works comprised a wide variety of topics, including major historical events and everyday life in the west. His work was noted for the frequency with which he portrayed well-known events from the point of view of Native American people instead of the non-Native viewpoint.

His portrayal of women has drawn critiques and assessment from historians studying women in the west. The contrasting levels of sensuality in his depictions of white and native women is noted in his artistic transference of sexuality from white to Native women, so as to conform to the moral standards and perceptions of women in his time.

At auction in 2008, Charles Marion Russell's oil painting The Hold Up sold for $5.2 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.

Art Movement: American western Art
Traveled: Canada, England
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