Charles M. Russell: The Life and Legend of America's Cowboy Artist

Overview

In the first comprehensive biography of Charles M. Russell, author John Taliaferro examines the colorful life and times of Montana's famed cowboy artist. Born to an affluent St. Louis family in 1864, young Russell read thrilling tales of the West and filled sketchbooks with imagined frontier scenes. At sixteen he left home and headed west to become a cowboy. In Montana Territory he consorted with cowpunchers, Indians, preachers, saloon keepers, and prostitutes, while documenting and celebrating the glory days of ...
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0316831905 Copyright 1996. First Edition.

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Overview

In the first comprehensive biography of Charles M. Russell, author John Taliaferro examines the colorful life and times of Montana's famed cowboy artist. Born to an affluent St. Louis family in 1864, young Russell read thrilling tales of the West and filled sketchbooks with imagined frontier scenes. At sixteen he left home and headed west to become a cowboy. In Montana Territory he consorted with cowpunchers, Indians, preachers, saloon keepers, and prostitutes, while documenting and celebrating the glory days of the waning American frontier in some 4,000 paintings, watercolors, drawings, and sculptures. Before his death in 1926, Russell saw the world change dramatically and the West he loved pass into legend. By then he was revered as one of the country's ranking Western artists and his work was displayed in the finest galleries, his romantic vision of the Old West forever shaping our own.

Taliaferro reveals the man behind the myth in his multifaceted complexity: extraordinarily gifted, self-effacing, charming, mischievous, and playful, a friend to rough frontier denizens and Hollywood stars alike. The author also explores Russell's controversial partnership with his fiery young wife Nancy, whose ambition and business savvy helped establish Russell as one of America's most popular artists.

No one has played a bigger role in establishing the cowboy in our culture than painter Charles Russell. He had a personality as expansive as the Big Sky country and a talent to match. This fascinating biography brings Russell the man to life for the first time, from his early years as a wrangler in the glory days of the open range to his rise to fame with the help of the robber barons he despised. in color. Map.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Charlie Russell, whose art combined documentation and romance, played a large part in establishing cowboy culture. Son of one of the leading families in St. Louis, he had dime-novel fantasies about the West. In 1880, aged 16, Russell left home for Montana Territory to be a cowboy. For the next 15 years, he led a devil-may-care existence as a wrangler, drinking heavily, womanizing, pleading for credit. Journalist Taliaferro brings the artist and the frontier to life in this sparkling biography. By 1887, Russell had gained local recognition for his art but was reluctant to push his career. All changed when he married a fiery young woman half his age in 1896. Wife Nancy became his promoter and business agent, arranging exhibitions and sales nationwide. By all accounts, Russell was a charmer; much of his success as a painter, says the author, must be attributed to his appealing personality. He died in 1926. This is an important book for Western buffs. (May)
Gilbert Taylor
When he left St. Louis to rusticate in Montana in 1880, Russell was only 16 years old and entranced by a West whose archetypes were then jelling into the stereotypes familiar to us today. With a gregarious sense of adventure and budding artistic talent, he stayed there for a lifetime, which, surprisingly enough, is here first given the cradle-to-grave treatment. A debut author, Taliaferro writes like a veteran, going beyond chronicle to plumb his subject's inner, emotional life, embedded in the atmosphere of his times. Montana in the 1880s, though no longer a frontier, was plenty wild, and Taliaferro engagingly relates Russell's ventures to experience the figures in his imagination: cowboys and Indians, buffalo and bears. An easy maker of friends with the cowboys, he met them, camped and drank with them, and put them down first as doodles, eventually as paintings. A better boon companion than savvy art marketeer, Russell didn't taste success until his marriage to a possessive woman his chums resentfully called the "little robber," but Nancy gave Charlie the necessary push out of the saloons and into the galleries. Whatever Russell's status in art history--detractors debunk his work for sentimentalism; enthusiasts value its evocative panoramas--his companionable character is seamlessly restored by Taliaferro.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316831901
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date: 5/1/1996
  • Edition description: 1st edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 318
  • Product dimensions: 6.47 (w) x 9.55 (h) x 1.11 (d)

Meet the Author

John Taliaferro is an independent historian and former senior editor for Newsweek and Texas Monthly.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
1 Introduction 3
2 St. Louis 12
3 Montana 29
4 "Last of Five Thousand" 46
5 Canada and Back 69
6 The White City 89
7 Nancy 104
8 Great Falls 119
9 Tall Tepees 141
10 Bull Head and Buffalo 159
11 "The West That Has Passed" 180
12 Campfire Star 203
13 California 218
14 Trail's End 240
15 Epilogue 262
Notes 272
Index 307
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