Charles M. Russell’s painting, Fireboat.

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The Fireboat

Original: 1918, Oil on Board

While on one of their trips to New York City with his wife in 1904, Charlie Russell mentioned that he desired to learn how to “lay in color”.  While he visited New York’s top artists and illustrators’ studios he was able to watch them work.  As a self-taught artist, Russell had never studied the academic convention of composition or color theory, but in the presence of trained artists, he quickly learned.  With a newfound understanding, he returned to Montana and entered his finest phase of his painting career, lasting from 1904 until his death in 1926.

The Fireboat, exemplifies Russell’s use of mixing pigments to optimize color and anchor figures into a three-dimensional space.  Compositionally, The Fireboat is a typical Russell portrayal of the Plains Indians perspective verses those of a white man.  His use of small and authentic details like the middle rider using sign language for “fire” to signal to the others of the steamboat moving along Missouri River, accurately foreshadowing the changes to come.

Gift of Mrs. Wade George (In memory of Wade Hampton George)

Additional information


Canvas, Framed, Metal, Paper


11.5 x 18 inches, 14.5 x 24 inches, 14.5 x 9 inches, 16 x 26 inches, 17 x 27 inches, 34 x 54 inches, 5 x 8 inches, 8 x 13 inches


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