The C.M. Russell Museum received an anonymous contribution of $575,000 that enabled the museum to purchase two Charles M. Russell watercolor paintings. These two pieces appeared in The Russell Live Auction on March 21, 2015, and have been added to the C.M. Russell Museum’s permanent collection.
Cowboy on a Bay Horse, c. 1895, is one of more than two dozen known equestrian portraits Russell produced of individual range riders during his productive career. Although the identity of the confident cowpuncher is unknown, Russell often portrayed pals with whom he had ridden the range, according to B. Byron Price, director of the Charles M. Russell Center for the Study of Art of the American West at the University of Oklahoma.
An Indian War Party, 1902, was created during the heyday of the artist’s production. The painting numbers among the 230 finished watercolors Russell painted from 1896 to 1909. Native American subjects dominated his output during this time, numbering 155 works, about 67 percent of his total production.
CURRENTLY ON DISPLAY
Charles M. Russell: The Legacy of America’s Cowboy Artist
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.
THE BISON: American Icon, Heart of Plains Indian Culture [TEMPORARILY CLOSED DUE TO FLOOD DAMAGE]
The Bison: American Icon, Heart of Plains Indian Culture features more than 1,000 Northern Plains Indian artifacts such as clothing, regalia, tools, and weapons, as well as works of art highlighting Northern Plains Indian culture. This comprehensive exhibition addresses the crucial historical and cultural role of the bison for all people in the Northern Plains between 1800 and 2008. It also examines the ways in which this impressive animal has emerged as an American cultural icon.
The bison is a critical part of the rich shared cultural heritage of Montana and the surrounding region. This exhibition examines the bison’s importance, not only to the lives of Plains Indians, but also to a growing 19th-century national economy, leading to the animal’s sudden decimation and eventual resurgence. With regard to the Northern Plains, the exhibition traces the bison’s transformation from everyday resource to iconic symbol, a shift that began to gain strength during the early reservation period in the late 19th century. The exhibition follows a period of intense consumption of bison as a natural resource by new and growing populations, the development of a conservation movement, and the emergence of the bison as a symbol of North America.
THE BROWNING FIREARMS COLLECTION
John Moses Browning (1855–1926) was one of the world’s most important and innovative gun makers. The Russell Museum’s outstanding Browning Firearms Collection includes rifles, shotguns, and handguns that survey the significant developments made by Browning and the Colt and Winchester companies, with which he worked.