Charles Russell on Neenah

Permanent Exhibition: Charles Russell and Albert Trigg first met in Great Falls in 1891, when both were relative newcomers to the city. Trigg was an Englishman who had lived in Canada and Michigan before moving to Montana with his wife Margaret and daughter Josephine (1872–1951). He met Russell at the Brunswick Bar of which he was the proprietor and allowed Russell to set up his studio in a back room of the bar in order to attempt to become a full-time painter. In 1900, the Russells bought two lots on the same block as the Trigg family and built a modest frame house. The Trigg and Russell families maintained a close relationship with one another and were frequent visitors and even travel companions.

Josephine taught in the public schools and became children’s librarian at the Great Falls Public Library in 1911. An avid reader, interested in history, cultures and faraway places, she shared her interest and enthusiasm with Charlie and occasionally read to him while he worked. She also contributed the beautiful calligraphy on his greetings and poems. Josephine was a devoted friend of Nancy’s and Jack’s godmother, and long after Charlie’s death she and her mother regularly visited Nancy and Jack in California.

The Trigg collection was bequeathed to the Trigg-Russell Foundation, Inc., by Josephine Trigg in memory of her beloved parents, and in memory of Charles M. Russell, her close friend and neighbor. This bequest provided the incentive which resulted in the public subscription of funds for the construction of the C.M. Russell Gallery which was completed in 1953. The collection is entirely composed of pieces given to Miss Trigg and her parents, as well as letters he wrote to them. They were highly treasured by her as repeated expressions of his esteem and affection. She was, however, sufficiently perceptive to recognize that the collection had more than sentimental worth, since it not only constitutes an accurate and beautifully executed artistic record of a colorful period in the development of this western area but also reveals much of the lovable character of an artist whose nostalgic sensitivity was tempered by a quietly sharp and appreciative sense of humor. Although in very modest financial circumstances during her declining years, Miss Trigg sacrificed comfort and security by refusing to sell her collection. She preferred to preserve it for display in the community in which Russell lived and in the country which inspired so much of his work.
This reinstallation in the original Trigg gallery highlights the family’s collection of artwork that was accumulated over their lifetimes including drawings, poems, illustrated letters, watercolors, oils, and plaster and wax sculptures.