How Charles M Russell Was More Than A Fascinating Artist
Most people born and raised in Great Falls have a pretty solid understanding and appreciation of Charlie Russell's vast contribution to the world of western art. After all, Great Falls is where Charlie Russell lived, painted, and sculpted as he documented the ever-changing western landscape with his art.
Great Falls is home to the C.M. Russell Museum where Charlie's master works are on display year-round, and we are proud to host Western Art Week, bringing in artists and art enthusiasts from around the world.
As I have stated before, I am not native to Montana. With Western Art week just around the corner, I wanted to take a deep dive into what makes Great Falls the "Western Art Capitol of the World," and that search pretty much begins and ends with the one and only, Charlie Russell.
Read More: How Charlie Russell and I Are Connected
Aside from his obvious artistic talent and visual story-telling abilities, what captivated me most about Charlie was his dedication to preserving the western way of life, specifically in regards to the Indigenous people he not only painted, but championed.
If you are from Great Falls, chances are good that you have seen a Charlie Russell painting or sculpture depicting Native Americans. As I began to learn about Charlie, I was surprised to learn just how much he sympathized with their displacement in the changing western landscape during the turn of the century. Many of Charlie's works, such as the pen and ink drawing entitled "Last of His Race" literally illustrate this displacement.
Charlie's affinity for his Native American subjects developed in-part from spending time living with the Blood Indians during the summer of 1888. Here he was able to study their culture and develop a deeper appreciation for their way of life.
Perhaps most surprisingly to me, Charlie Russell was responsible for helping establish the Rocky Boy Reservation, by supporting a bid put forth by a group of landless Chippewa Natives. After years of displacement, relocation and failed attempts at legislation in Congress, Charlie and other civic leaders were able to secure land for Rocky Boy in 1916.
The more I learn about Charlie Russell, the more I respect and admire him.