Charles M. Russell: The Legacy of America’s Cowboy Artist


Charles M. Russell (1864–1926), Breaking Camp, 1897, watercolor (C.M. Russell Museum, gift of Great Falls Businessmen)

Charles M. Russell: The Legacy of America’s Cowboy Artist, celebrates 64 years of the C.M. Russell Museum.  
The C.M. Russell Museum’s extensive permanent collection of Russell oil paintings, watercolors, bronzes, clay models, illustrated letters, pen-and-ink drawings, and published illustrations has been reinstalled in five galleries to showcase the astonishing depth and range of Charles M. Russell (1864–1926). Although it is not possible to display all 700 works in the Russell collection at one time, the art currently on view nonetheless demonstrates the remarkable artistic evolution of a largely self-taught genius.




Charles M. Russell (1864–1926), Meat for the Wagons, 1925, watercolor, (C.M. Russell Museum, gift of Frederick G. and Ginger Renner in memory of Graham D. Renner)

Arranged in roughly chronological order, the reinstallation begins with the primitive paintings and drawings of Russell’s boyhood and ends with the masterpieces he produced near the end of his life. The exhibition identifies and then expands upon the three major themes that occupied Russell throughout his career: vivid images of cowboy life, Indian life and customs, and wildlife of the Northern Plains. Through amazing leaps in artistic skill and ever-increasing sophistication, Russell’s accomplishments can be seen to grow in stature from folk art to American masterpieces.

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