Charles M. Russell was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on March 19, 1864. At the age of sixteen, he traveled to the upper Judith River basin of Montana. By the fall of 1881, Russell was employed as a horse wrangler. For several years following, he worked on Montana cattle ranches and personally observed the passing of the old west. His intimate knowledge of the landscape, the people, and the animals, was directly reflected in his art.
Favorable weather and high prices in the early 1880s resulted in increased cattle numbers on the Montana ranges. Severe storms in the 1886/1887 winter season caused devastating losses to the sheep and cattle ranchers of the region. In February, 1887, Louis Kaufman wrote the owner of the OH Ranch, inquiring for the condition of Kaufman's Bar R cattle. Russell's sketch, "Waiting for a Chinook: The last of the 5000", was a brutal answer to Kaufman's letter. Copies of this postcard sized watercolor, distributed widely outside of Montana, made known the name of "cowboy artist" Charles Russell.
In the latter half of the 1880s, Russell sketches were published in Harper's Weekly and Leslie's Weekly. His detailed knowledge of his subject and its accurate representation in his art resulted in the recognition of Russell as the "last major interpreter of the Old West". [Ewers, Artists of the Old West, 234]
Russell's art came from direct experience. In his October 27, 1921 letter to friend, Tommy (P.F.) Tucker Russell recollects a steer his friend once roped: "If I remember right, he [the steer] got one fore foot through the loop and the hondue lay in front of his hump; an' judgin' from the way he travelled, you an' Bunky wasn't even a rough lock. He started for Texas like he didn't mean to make any stops, but you an' Bunky didn't want to go that fer...." [Conway, A Child of the Frontier, 161]
Found in 1 Collection or Record:
Charles Russell Collection
The items comprising the Russell Collection were gathered by R.D. Warden. The collection consists of approximately 7,000 items, among which are 900 books. Exhibit and gallery catalogs, advertisements, and news articles about the "cowboy artist" Russell and his colleagues are included in the collection. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln acquired the collection in 1977.