Paying the Fiddler

Paying the Fiddler


It was this type of Russell painting that really paid the bills and brought people face to face with the rough and tough wild west of his day. It was the law of fist and boot and you didn’t cross the line or you paid the price. This inspiration undoubtedly came from stories and recollections of the eastern Montana territorial vigilante days where all rustling activity was brought to a screeching halt in less than a month. The outraged cattlemen took the law into their own hands and in short order everyone got real honest all of a sudden.


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Paying the Fiddler

Original: 1916, Oil on Canvas

One of Russell’s most dramatic works, Paying the Fiddler depicts what could happen, and often did, when vigilantes caught a rustler in the act of stealing cattle on the open range the execution of the rustler is swift.  He has been gunned down before he has even finished branding a stolen calf.

Russell invests the scene with evocative details in the strong glow of the branding fire and the vigilantes’ horse gear, clothing and guns.  The contrast between the brightly lit background and the shadow of the foreground intensifies the drama of the situation.  The brands on the horses and the recognizable landscape help the viewer to identify the people and the place where the event occurred, south of Square Butte in the northers part of the Judith Basin.

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William H Moorse

Additional information


Canvas, Framed, Metal, Paper


12 x 18 inches, 20 x 30 inches, 24 x 36 inches, 4 x 6 inches, 8 x 12 inches


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