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Charles Russell Essay

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Updated: Nov 29th, 2019


Charles Marion Russell was a West American artist born in 1864. Russell is greatly referenced for his ability to combine cowboy artistry, with other attributes like history and beauty. Russell recorded approximately 2000 works and incorporated bronze and oil in his paintings.

Russell’s collections can be found in C.M. Russell Museum Complex based in Montana. It should also be noted that, Russell was a talented storyteller and author. The works by Russell have realized financial success, as evidenced by the recent purchase of Piegans painting at $5.6 million, in the year 2005


Russell identified with art even when he was young. He demonstrated interest in wild art, as he made sketches and molded animals using clay. His interest in wild adventure was evidenced by the early stage that he learnt to ride horses.

It should be noted that, Russell dropped out of school when he was only sixteen years and found a job in a ranch based in Montana. Russell’s job in the Montana ranch was not long-lived, as he relocated to Judith Basin and became a hunter. It was at Judith Basin, that Russell became acquainted with Western norms. Russell led his career in Montana where he died in 1926.

As a cowboy, Russell depicted weather conditions at Judith Basin by painting. Russell’s career began in 1888 after he made a sketch he named ‘Waiting for a Chinook’. Russell later improved the painted version of this sketch. During this period, Russell interacted with people of Blackfeet and became well versed with the Blacks’ norms. Russell returned to Judith Basin in1889, where he noted increase in settlements. He began working as full time artist in a studio and developed his career intensively.

Russell married an eighteen year old girl when he was at age of thirty two. After his marriage he relocated to Great Falls. Most of his works were done in Great Falls and his reputation spread locally and internationally. His wife Nancy played a crucial role in success of Russell. Nancy did not only pose in the image of Keeoma 3, but also engaged in a lot of marketing for Russell’s art especially in America and United Kingdom.

Wild Horse Hunters

One of the notable works by Russell was the Wild Horse Hunters he painted in 1913. The painting featured people chasing after untamed horses. Russell used beauty of form and color to highlight his painting. The bands that are chasing after the wild horses are led by stallions.

In this painting, Russell used background of mountains and other features he had sketched while in Judith Basin. The use of untamed horses symbolized the unrefined Western culture that was spreading to other regions. Most scholars accredit this piece of work by Russell for the aspect of humor it assumes.

The Medicine Man

The Medicine Man was also celebrated, as great work by Russell. The work depicted great reference that Russell had for Indians. It should be noted that, the piece of art defines a cultural product associated with Indians. An Indian medicine man was supposed to guide people in their movements and act as the intermediary between Indians and the spirit. In addition, a medicine man had power to talk with animals.

The painting consists of Indians, specifically the Blackfeet and a medicine man is in front of them. The background of the painting is a tree that Russell sketched back in Judith Basin. The mountain of Highwood is also highlighted in the painting. The region originally belonged to Blackfeet people, who engaged in activities like hunting.

The painting by Russell demonstrated the high esteem that an Indian medicine man was accorded. The medicine man carried a crooked rod that was crowned with feathers. Russell uses a crooked rod to signify single tribe inclination in place of the whole Black race. Russell highlights the powerful cultural product of Indian medicine.

The medicine man wears an antelope medallion around his neck that was used to identify a thief among the Indians. Further, Russell brings forth a strange shape of a key at the shoulder of a horse. Formation of such a shape meant that the one riding the horse was a thief. It should be noted that, Blackfeet were nomads and moved along with their properties. Russell highlighted poles that Blackfeet used to carry animal hides. In Russell’s paintings reference and respect among the Blacks, is evident.


Russell contributed significantly to the world of art. In spite of acknowledgements that Russell received, there were critics directed to his works as well. It should however be noted that, many scholars identified with Russell’s works. He employed rich aspects of nature and transcended culture boundaries, thereby securing large audience worldwide. One admirable fact about Russell was that he did not learn his art in school.

There is no mention of Russell’s study after he dropped out of school at the age of sixteen years. Nancy contributed to Russell’s success significantly especially in the marketing sector. Despite the fact that Russell was West American, he incorporated culture and norms of Blacks as well. In this regard, Russell promoted culture awareness as well as appreciation.

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1. IvyPanda. "Charles Russell." November 29, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/charles-russell/.


IvyPanda. "Charles Russell." November 29, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/charles-russell/.


IvyPanda. 2019. "Charles Russell." November 29, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/charles-russell/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'Charles Russell'. 29 November.

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