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The Masterworks of Charles M. Russell: A Retrospective of Paintings and Sculpture

October 17, 2009 - January 10, 2010

 

The Masterworks of Charles M. Russell: A Retrospective of Paintings and Sculpture highlights more than 60 major works in oil and bronze by the renowned western artist (1864-1926). Revising conventional concepts about the artist, the exhibition opened at the Denver Art Museum (DAM) on October 17, 2009, and continues through January 10, 2010. This exhibition, the first-ever major retrospective of Russell's painting and sculptural work, was co-organized by the Denver Art Museum's Petrie Institute of Western American Art and Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, Okla.

"Russell's art continues to influence American western painters and sculptors, and his distinctive way with words has affected entertainers and political commentators from Will Rogers on," said Joan Carpenter Troccoli, senior scholar with the DAM's Petrie Institute of Western American Art and curator of the exhibition. "This exhibition will reveal his strengths as a fine artist -- and those accustomed to filing Russell away as the original 'cowboy artist' will find many surprises."

One of the surprises is the variety of his subjects and the range of his expression. Russell was known for his detailed depictions of minute elements of cowboy gear and complex movement. The depth of his concern about the destruction of native Northern Plains people and landscapes and his tolerance for human differences are hallmarks of his work. Russell viewed Indians as complex beings who held the only truly authentic claim to the American West, and protested governmental injustices and public indifference to their removal from their ancestral homelands. Indian women often were subjects in his work -- in fact, depictions of Native Americans outnumber cowboys in his work by three to one.

In addition to revising the concept of Russell as a cowboy artist, the exhibition and accompanying catalogue will invite a close look at his development as an artist. With no formal artistic training, Russell relied on his powers of observation, discipline and commitment, drawing inspiration from magazine illustrations as well as the work of earlier western artists including George Catlin, Karl Bodmer, Carl Wimar and Russell's contemporary, Frederic Remington.

Born in 1864 and raised in St. Louis, Mo., by a well-to-do family, as a child Russell enjoyed sketching and modeling animal figurines in wax and clay. He tended to identify with his pioneering relatives -- including an uncle who established a major trading post on the Santa Fe Trail and married a Cheyenne woman -- rather than the high society inclinations of his immediate family circle. He left home with his parents' reluctant blessing at age 16 to live in what was then the Montana Territory and work on a sheep ranch. He eventually took a job as a cow hand and while herding cattle enjoyed his first taste of fame for his watercolor, Waiting for a Chinook, which features an emaciated cow encircled by wolves. The painting was his response to a cattle owner's query about how his herd had weathered the devastating winter of 1886-87.

Russell became an artist in demand after Waiting for a Chinook, and his work dovetailed with a time in American history when all things western were being consumed in many forms, including magazine articles, novels and western films that eventually became a movie genre of their own. He married in 1896 and shortly thereafter moved to Great Falls, Mont., where he lived and worked for most of his life.

The exhibition opens with the action-packed cowboy paintings for which the artist is best known, and concludes with his heroic portrayals of wildlife in pristine western settings undisturbed by man. Section by section -- from cowboys, outlaws and lawmen; the interaction of Indians and whites in the west; native life in all its aspects; white trappers and hunters; to wildlife and wilderness -- the exhibition's organization corresponds to Russell's increasing alienation from modern urban civilization and growing devotion to pure nature.

"Russell captured the landscapes, people, culture and spirit of the American west in his paintings and sculptures," said Thomas Smith, director of the Denver Art Museum's Petrie Institute of Western American Art. "This exhibition is truly a once-in-lifetime opportunity to experience these masterworks in one exhibition, and visitors will see why Russell is the most beloved artist of the American West."

The exhibition will be on view in the Gallagher Family Gallery, located on the first level of the Frederic C. Hamilton Building. A catalogue titled The Masterworks of Charles M. Russell: A Retrospective of Paintings and Sculpture, edited by exhibition curator Joan Carpenter Troccoli with a foreword by Denver Art Museum Director Lewis Sharp and Gilcrease Museum Executive Director Duane King, will be available at the Museum Shop.

 


Biographical information concerning key individuals involved in the exhibition

Dr. Lewis I. Sharp
Frederick and Jan Mayer Director, Denver Art Museum
 
Dr. Lewis Sharp became Director of the Denver Art Museum in 1989, after serving as curator and administrator for the American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art from 1982 to 1989. Sharp, who received his Ph.D. from the University of Delaware, has published numerous works on American art. Under his directorship, the Denver Art Museum moved decisively to develop a national agenda, which has included refining and augmenting the Museum's collections and initiating one of the most innovative educational programs for children and adults in this country. In 1993 and 1997, Sharp led the Museum through major renovation projects, which included several new galleries, an education center and special exhibition galleries. Continuing his drive to enhance and improve the Museum, Sharp most recently managed the completion of the Frederic C. Hamilton Building, which nearly doubled the size of the current complex. Spearheading this expansion project, Sharp worked with world-renowned architect Daniel Libeskind to design the new building with expanded permanent gallery and exhibition space for the Museum.
 
Cathey Finlon
Interim President, Denver Art Museum
 
Appointed in April 2009 as the Interim President of the Denver Art Museum, Cathey Finlon will develop long-term plans and help transition the Museum into the hands of new leadership. Finlon has served on the Board of Trustees for the Museum since 1994 and took a leave of absence from her position to serve in this new role. Aside from her strong leadership with the Museum's board, she was the owner and CEO of McClain Finlon Advertising for 26 years before closing the business in 2008. Finlon built the company from a five-person agency to become one of the top 50 ad agencies in America, and one of the top five largest woman-owned businesses in Colorado. In addition to building her own successful company, she spent ten years in development with the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences and the Denver Art Museum.
 
Joan Carpenter Troccoli
Senior Scholar with the Petrie Institute of Western American Art, Denver Art Museum
 
Joan Carpenter Troccoli, curator of The Masterworks of Charles M. Russell: A Retrospective of Paintings and Sculpture, began her work as a senior scholar with the Petrie Institute of Western American Art at the Denver Art Museum in 2005. Prior to this position, Troccoli was the founding director and curator for the Institute. Before her work at the DAM, Troccoli was the curator of art and later director of Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she organized Alfred Jacob Miller: Watercolors of the American West and First Artist of the West: Paintings and Watercolors by George Catlin from the Collection of Gilcrease Museum. In addition to curatorial duties, Troccoli has lectured and published numerous articles on Western artists including Catlin, Miller, Frederic Remington, Thomas Moran and Emil Lenders. Troccoli completed her undergraduate degree at Middlebury College and received her master's and doctoral degrees from the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University. Currently she focuses on writing and curatorial duties for exhibitions and publications. Much of her work now centers on the first retrospective exhibition of the work of Charles Deas, Charles Deas and 1840s America, which will be on view in 2010 at the DAM.
 
Thomas Smith
Director of the Petrie Institute of Western American Art, Denver Art Museum
 
Thomas Smith joined the Denver Art Museum as the associate curator of the Petrie Institute of Western American Art in late 2008 and became director in May of 2009. Prior to coming to the DAM, Smith was curator of Art of the American West at the Tucson Museum of Art. He also held earlier positions at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, C.M. Russell Center for the Study of Art of the American West and the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. At the Tucson Museum of Art, Smith helped to renovate gallery space and organized A Place of Refuge: Maynard Dixon's Arizona, which was the largest presentation of the artist's work to date. Smith received his B.F.A. in fine art from Oklahoma Christian University and completed his master's in art history from the University of Oklahoma. In charge of programs and exhibitions for the Petrie Institute of Western American Art at the Museum, Smith has successfully planned and reopened the seventh floor Western art galleries focused on early Western art.

 

Images of objects in the exhibition

 

(above: Charles M. Russell, A Bronc Twister (The Weaver), 1911. Bronze. Petrie Collection, Denver, Colo.)

 

(above: Charles M. Russell, The Camp Cook's Troubles, 1912. Oil on canvas. Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, Okla.)

 

(above: Charles M. Russell, In the Enemy's Country, 1921. Oil on canvas. Denver Art Museum, gift of the Magness Family in memory of Betsy Magness.)

 

(above: Charles M. Russell, Piegans, 1918. Oil on canvas. Tom and Jane Petrie Collection, Denver, Colo.)

 

Exhibition Checklist

All works by Charles M. Russell.

A Bad One, 1920. Oil on canvas. Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, Okla.
 
A Bronc Twister (The Weaver), 1911. Bronze. Tom and Jane Petrie Collection, Denver, Colo.
 
A Dream of Burlington, 1880. Graphite and watercolor on paper. Tom and Jane Petrie Collection, Denver, Colo.
 
A Tight Dally and a Loose Latigo, 1920. Oil on canvas. Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas.
 
Ah Wah Cous (Antelope), 1911. Wax, plaster and paint. Courtesy of the C.M. Russell Museum, Great Falls, Mont., and gift of Fred Renner.
 
Assiniboine Warrior, 1913. Wax, plaster and paint. Courtesy of the C.M. Russell Museum, Great Falls, Mont., and gift of the Josephine Trigg Estate.
 
Breaking Camp, 1885. Oil on canvas. Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas.
 
Bringing Home the Spoils, 1909. Oil on canvas. Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Cody, Wyo.
 
The Broken Rope, 1904. Oil on canvas. Tom and Jane Petrie Collection, Denver, Colo.
 
The Buffalo Family, 1921. Bronze. Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, Okla.
 
Buffalo Hunt [No. 7], 1895. Oil on canvas. Tom and Jane Petrie Collection, Denver, Colo.
 
The Buffalo Hunt [No. 29], 1900. Oil on canvas. Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, Okla.
 
Buffalo Hunt [No. 39], 1919. Oil on canvas. Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas.
 
The Buffalo Runners, 1892. Oil on canvas. Sid Richardson Museum, Fort Worth, Texas.
 
Call of the Law, 1911. Oil on canvas. National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City, Okla.
 
The Camp Cook's Troubles, 1912. Oil on canvas. Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, Okla.
 
Carson's Men, 1913. Oil on canvas. Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, Okla.
 
Caught in the Act, 1888. Oil on canvas. Montana Historical Society MacKay Collection, Helena, Mont.
 
Caught in the Circle, 1903. Oil on canvas. National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City, Okla.
 
The Cinch Ring, 1909. Oil on canvas. Private collection.
 
Counting Coup [No. 1], 1905. Bronze. Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, Okla.
 
Cowboy Bargaining for an Indian Girl, 1895. Oil on canvas. Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, N.H.; gift of J. Shirley Austin, Class of 1924.
 
Crippled but Still Coming, 1913. Oil on canvas. Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, Indianapolis, Ind. The Gund Collection of Western Art.
 
The Enemy's Tracks, 1920. Bronze. Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas.
 
The Fireboat, 1918. Oil on board. Courtesy of the C.M. Russell Museum, Great Falls, Montana, and gift of Mrs. Wade George in memory of Wade Hampton George.
 
Friend Bill [William G. Krieghoff], May 4, 1914. Pen, ink and watercolor on paper. Foxley Collection, La Jolla, Calif.
 
Friend Goodwin [Philip R. Goodwin], January 1909. Pen, ink and watercolor on paper. Stark Museum of Art, Orange, Texas.
 
Friend Trigg [Albert J. Trigg], April 20, 1907, 1907. Watercolor, pen and ink on paper. Courtesy of the C.M. Russell Museum, Great Falls, Montana, and gift of the Josephine Trigg Estate.
 
Friend Young Boy, March 1, 1902, 1902. Ink and watercolor on paper. Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, Okla.
 
Her Heart is on the Ground, 1917. Oil on canvas. Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, Okla.
 
His Heart Sleeps, 1911. Oil on canvas. Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Cody, Wyo.
 
The Hold-Up, 1899. Oil on canvas. Tom and Jane Petrie Collection, Denver, Colo.
 
The Horse Wrangler, 1924. Bronze. Tom and Jane Petrie Collection, Denver, Colo.
 
I Savvy These Folks, 1907. Pen and ink with watercolor on paper. Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, Okla.
 
In the Enemy's Country, 1921. Oil on canvas. Denver Art Museum, gift of the Magness Family in memory of Betsy Magness.
 
In the Wake of the Buffalo Runners, 1911. Oil on canvas. Private collection.
 
In Without Knocking, 1909. Oil on canvas. Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas.
 
Indian Hunters' Return, 1900. Oil on canvas. Montana Historical Society MacKay Collection, Helena, Montana.
 
Indian Maid at Stockade, 1892. Oil on canvas. JP Morgan Chase Art Collection.
 
Innocent Allies, 1913. Oil on canvas. Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, Okla.
 
Jerked Down, 1907. Oil on canvas. Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, Okla.
 
Jim Bridger, 1926. Bronze. Tom and Jane Petrie Collection, Denver, Colo.
 
Joshing Moon, 1918. Oil on canvas. Tom and Jane Petrie Collection, Denver, Colo.
 
Jumped, 1914. Oil on canvas. Foxley Collection, La Jolla, Calif.
 
Last of Five Thousand (Waiting for a Chinook), 1903. Watercolor on paper. Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Cody, Wyo.
 
The Lewis and Clark Expedition, 1918. Oil on canvas. Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, Okla.
 
Meat for Wild Men, 1924. Bronze. Tom and Jane Petrie Collection, Denver, Colo.
 
Meat's Not Meat Till It's in the Pan, 1915. Oil on canvas, mounted on masonite. Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, Okla.
 
The Medicine Man, 1908. Oil on canvas. Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas.
 
Piegans, 1918. Oil on canvas. Tom and Jane Petrie Collection, Denver, Colo.
 
The Price of His Hide, 1915. Oil on canvas. Foxley Collection, La Jolla, Calif.
 
Round-Up on the Musselshell, 1919. Oil on canvas. Foxley Collection, La Jolla, Calif.
 
Salute to the Robe Trade, 1920. Oil on canvas. Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, Okla.
 
Scalp Dance, 1905. Bronze. Tom and Jane Petrie Collection, Denver, Colo.
 
The Scout, 1915. Oil on canvas. Tom and Jane Petrie Collection, Denver, Colo.
 
Secrets of the Night, 1926. Bronze. Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, Okla.
 
Self Portrait, 1900. Watercolor on paper. Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Cody, Wyo.
 
The Silk Robe, 1890. Oil on canvas. Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas.
 
Single-Handed, 1912. Oil on canvas. Mr. and Mrs. William D. Weiss.
 
Smoking Up, 1904. Bronze. Frederic G. and Ginger K. Renner Collection, Paradise Valley, Ariz.
 
The Spirit of Winter, 1926. Bronze. Art Collection, Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin.
 
The Strenuous Life, 1901. Oil on canvas. Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, Okla.
 
The Tenderfoot, 1900. Oil on canvas. Sid Richardson Museum, Fort Worth, Texas.
 
To Dr. Philip Cole, September 26, 1926. Ink and watercolor on paper. Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, Okla.
 
To Edward C. ["Teddy blue"] Abbot, May 13, 1919. Watercolor and ink on paper. Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, Indianapolis, Indiana.
 
To the Victor Belongs the Spoils, 1901. Oil on canvas. JKM Collection, National Museum of Wildlife Art.
 
Waiting and Mad, 1899. Oil on board mounted on masonite. Indianapolis Museum of Art, gift of the Harrison Eiteljorg Gallery of Western Art.
 
When Blackfeet and Sioux Meet, 1908. Oil on canvas. Sid Richardson Museum, Fort Worth, Texas.
 
When I Was A Kid, 1905. Watercolor and gouache on paper. Frederic G. and Ginger K. Renner Collection.
 
When Horseflesh Comes High, 1909. Oil on canvas. Tom and Jane Petrie Collection, Denver, Colo.
 
When Horses Talk War There's Slim Chance for Truce, 1915. Oil on canvas. Montana Historical Society MacKay Collection.
 
When Shadows Hint Death, 1915. Oil on canvas. The Duquesne Club, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
 
When the Land Belonged to God, 1914. Oil on canvas. Montana Historical Society MacKay Collection, Helena, Montana.
 
Where Tracks Spell Meat, 1916. Oil on canvas. Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, Okla.

 

Editor's note: RL readers may also enjoy:

and

TFAO also suggests these DVD or VHS videos:

Charles M. Russell: An American Artist  19 minute / 1982 / BARR - "Charles M. Russell (1864-1926) was one of the foremost in documenting the American West. By the time he was 16 he followed his dreams to the mountains and plains of Montana, where he lived the life of a hunter and cowboy. Sketching and modeling were just a hobby for him, but he captured the West exactly as he saw it. Over the next 40 years, Russell created a treasure of American art-a record of the West so rich and personal that it remains as vivid for us today as it was for him at the turn of the century."
 
Portrait of Charles M. Russell: Preserver of the Old West, A Features paintings and rare photographs of the artist, storyteller, humorist, and cowboy, Charlie Russell (1864-1926). 23-minute video. Description source: Amon Carter Museum Teacher Resource Center

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