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Charles Russell - Artist of the Old West and Endearing Poet

Updated on March 8, 2013

Charles Russell, Old West Artist and Poet

Charles Marion Russell had a lifelong love of Montana, life in the old west and a talent for poetry. Though he was born in Missouri on March 19, 1864, his life, times and artistic talents are genuine American History. His 2,000 paintings, sculptures and wonderfully endearing poetry show the American west in the most realistic view. From his earliest days as a youth in Missouri, Charles Russell, also known as "Kid Russell," painted and created sculptures, as if by some mystical empowerment. He was drawn to all things Wild West and was an avid reader of all things western. His fascination for tales from traders and explorers only increased his passions. His first horseback riding experience was in Jerseyville, Illinois. It was no surprise that his adult years would become a treasury filled with his deep western interests.

Westward Ho, The Artist

At the tender age of sixteen, Charles Russell saw an opportunity to live his dream. He moved to Montana. Montana of the 1880s was relatively undeveloped as a state and employment was limited to working in copper mines, on sheep ranches, hunting and trapping. Charles Russell ventured onto a ranch owned by Jake Hoover, a former hunter and trapper. Russell and Hoover would soon become fast friends for life. Most of what he learned of his new found world was taught to him by Jake Hoover. Winters in Montana were brutal and often forced Russell indoors. In his idle hours, Charles Russell the famed old west artist, was born. He discovered his hidden artistic talents by painting the cruelly harsh winters in Montana in 1886.

The Whimsical Side of Charles Russell

Charles Russell had a whimsical nature. Instead of responding to letters to friends and family, he often drew responses as art with a few lines of poetry added. These can be found in the Charles Russell Museum in Great Falls, Montana along with numerous paintings and sculptures that capture the imagination of his life.

Life With the Native American Indians of Montana

In 1888, Charles Russell lived among the Blackfeet Nation of Native Americans. During this period of his life, he learned much about the culture of the Blackfeet. A study of his paintings is a contrast from the versions of history that seemed to demonize Native Americans viewed as uncivilized savages. Rather, his paintings show the difficulties of the intrusion of explorers, traders and US Cavalry who forced Native Americans to struggle to keep their culture alive.

The Beauty of Charles Russell Paintings and Sculptures

The startling beauty and glorious colors Charles Russell used in many of his paintings are breathtaking examples of his talent in art and sculpture. His endearing poems to his wife, Nancy, have a Victorian air. His sense of whimsy and humor are evident in these poetic notes, some of which are accompanied with his artful designs.

Some of his most famous paintings are "The Custer Fight" and "Roundup." His sculpture, "Meat for Wild Men," aptly shows the methods used by Native Indians to round up buffalo in herds to prepare for the harsh winters ahead.

Charles M.Russell died on October 24, 1926, leaving Americans with a vast treasure trove of art, sculptures and personal effects that are a must for lovers of American History.


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