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Born in March of 1864, the cowboy artist Charles Marion Russell, also known as Kid Russell, completed over 2000 paintings portraying the American West, as well as over 4000 artworks all together, including drawings, watercolors, sculptures in clay, wax, bronze, plaster and other materials. Not only was Russell a natural visual artist, but he also became an author and storyteller.
While growing up, art was always an essential aspect of Russell’s life, and he was particularly interested in drawing and sculpting animals. He was also fascinated with the American Wild West and would spend a significant amount of time reading about it. Originally from St. Louis, Missouri, Russell left his school and home in 1880, at the young age of 16 to explore Montana and work at a sheep ranch. Although his plans as a rancher fell through, he met Jake Hoover, a former hunter who taught him essential information about the West and was the owner of a ranch in the Judith Basin. Hoover and Russell became great friends and remained this way for their entire life. The artist would live in Montana for the rest of his days, with the exception of a quick visit to his family in Missouri in 1882.
During this period, Russell continued to draw and paint scenes of the American West he witnessed but was still essentially an unknown artist. After a harsh winter, the owner of the ranch in which he worked sent a letter to the foreman asking about how the cattle were doing after the cold. Russell took the opportunity and sent a beautiful watercolor postcard of the ranch, which later on was remade into a more detailed version, entitled Waiting for a Chinook. The owner was quite enthusiastic about the artwork he received and displayed it in a showcase of a store in Helena, Montana. This helped Russell gain visibility as an artist, and he began to receive commissions.
Russell was a skilled self-taught artist who aimed to portray the West as he saw it. In 1888, he lived with the Blood Indians, who derived from the Blackfeet nation, and served as a great inspiration to his work. He traveled for a while, until settling in the Great Falls, Montana in 1892 to become a full-time artist. Four years later, he got married to Nancy, who helped him get his name known worldwide, as well as getting him art shows in London and throughout the U.S.A. In 1904, Russell took a trip to New York, where he picked up some tips from local artists and resulted in a dramatic change in his color pallet. The cowboy artist passed away at the age of 62, in October 1926. Russell became known as an American inspiration to all, and on the day of his funeral, the schools of Great Falls canceled all classes, so the teachers and kids could attend and pay homage to the great American artist.