The Josephine Trigg Collection

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. Russell did not settle in Great Falls at this time, but went back to the cattle range for two more years, spending the winters in various towns in north central Montana. He married Nancy Cooper in Cascade in 1896 and moved permanently to Great Falls in 1897. In 1900, they 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 Emma Josephine Trigg (1872-1951) in memory of her beloved parents, Albert J. and Margaret Trigg, 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 articles which Russell gave to Miss Trigg, her mother, and her father and letters he wrote to them in the course of personal correspondence. 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 will highlight the family’s collection of artwork that was accumulated over their lifetimes (majority of which was gifted by Chas. Russell), which includes drawings, poems, illustrated letters, watercolors, oils, and plaster and wax sculptures. A few additional objects and personal effects will also be included. The exhibition narrative will begin with an introduction to the collection, proceed to a brief history of the Trigg family, describe the relationship between the Russells and the Triggs, examine Josephine’s life, occupation and exchange of friendship and artwork between her and Chas., describe Josephine’s relationship with Nancy and life after Chas.’s death, and finally end with the creation of the CMRM complex and Trigg gallery.

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