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Charles Marion Russell: Artist and Storyteller

Charles Marion Russell (1864-1926) was an artist and storyteller who created more than 4,000 works of art on environmental and Western themes. Known as the “Cowboy Artist,” he lived in the West for approximately 50 years and worked to convey his perception of the land he loved, primarily through oil paintings and sculptures.

According to https://centerofthewest.org/explore/western-art: “Charlie Russell became not only the favorite son of his home state of Montana, but also the personification of the West itself. He wanted little to do with the present and nothing to do with the future, and chose to celebrate and romanticize only the traditions and virtues of the West as he envisioned it. He wanted it known that he had taken part in the Old West, and was a better man for it. Even as an internationally-known western artist, Russell cherished—far more than his skills—his friendships and his place as a peer among common people.”

He is buried at Highland Cemetery in Great Falls.

The C.M. Russell Museum

The town of Great Falls has a population of approximately 59,000, but it was only around 10,000 during the artist’s middle adult years. The campus of The C.M. Russell Museum, at 400 13th Street North, is the size of a city block and includes his home and log cabin studio. It has more than 12,000 objects on display in its permanent collection as well as temporary exhibits.

Charles Russell’s works of art have also been exhibited worldwide, including the following museums: New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, Amon Carter Museum of American Art, and Denver Art Museum. An example of the artist’s work can be seen here: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/11970.

His Writing

Russell’s Trails Plowed Under, which features his writing, illustrations, and painting all in one work, also includes an introduction by Will Rogers who was a great fan of Russell’s art. (You may find the book at gutenberg.org.) The two enjoyed a lasting friendship.

For more information about Will Rogers, please see our California and Oklahoma pages about his homes in those states at https://authoradventures.org/trails/by-state/california/rogers-will and https://authoradventures.org/trails/search-by-state-p-z/oklahoma/willrogersok, respectively.

The C.M. Russell Museum is the second stop on our Montana Author Adventures Trail.

Patricia Smart