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Charles Marion Russell (1864-1926)
Cowboys on the Plains
signed and dated 'CM Russell/1920' and inscribed with artist's skull device (lower left)
watercolor, gouache and pencil on paperboard
9 x 15 in. (22.9 x 38.1 cm.) (2)
Gift of the artist to private collection, Montana, 1921.
By descent to the present owners.

Lot Essay

The present work is accompanied by the following book:
Rawhide Rawlins Stories by Charles M. Russell, Great Falls, Montana, 1921, third printing, 60 pp. Illustrated throughout from sketches by Russell, 10½ x 7½ in. The work is inscribed on the title page: 'To Margaret Gene [sic] Cassidy/From/CM Russell/1921' and inscribed with the artist's skull device. Russell was a close friend to the Cassidy family and the present works, as well as lot 70, have remained in the family since they were gifts from the artist in the 1920s.

Born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1864, Charles Marion Russell came of age at a time when Buffalo Bill was fast becoming a national hero, and when the memories of such other heroes as Lewis and Clark, Zeb Pike and Kit Carson were still strong. The St. Louis waterfront was active with boats coming and going and the slogan "Go West Young Man" was well known in every household. The young Russell's adventurous nature was stoked by his first trip west. Russell's father sent him to Montana immediately following his sixteenth birthday, hoping that his son would be cured of his romantic notions of the West. Instead, "Kid Russell," as he was soon called, became completely absorbed in the local life, working for the next seven years as a horse wrangler and night herder. During this time, he carried his watercolors in his bedroll so that he could paint whenever the opportunity presented itself.

Primarily a self-taught artist, Russell was a keen observer of nature and quickly developed a style of advanced technical skill and a mature handling of color that would ultimately shape his broad and prolific career. Through his experiences on the open range and a close bond with all of the members of the West, Russell was able to create a pure visual testament to the sanctity of the Old West that had largely disappeared. "He has shaped the Western myth," concludes Peter Hassrick, "provided its standards, and given birth to its popularity. His legacy is America's treasure." (Charles M. Russell, Norman, Oklahoma, 1999, p. 144)

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