Feb 9, 201209:54 AMThe Telegraph
The Premier Blog of the West
Must-see Exhibit: Charles M. Russell Watercolors in Fort Worth
Charles M. Russell (1864–1926)
Watching for the Smoke Signal, 1907. Transparent and opaque watercolor over graphite underdrawing on paper. Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas.
At just 16 years of age, Charlie Russell headed west from his home in St. Louis, Missouri, for the Montana Territory to prove his mettle as a cowboy in Big Sky Country. As it turned out, he would be part of the last generation of wranglers to work the vast plains before the buffalo were annihilated, the Native Americans were removed to reservations, and barbed wire fenced in the once free-roaming range. But thanks to a photographic memory and a saddle bag stocked with modeling clay and watercolors, Russell was primed to record a vanishing way of life even as he lived it.
Romance Maker: The Watercolors of Charles M. Russell
Russell ultimately would become best known for his oil paintings and sculptures, but of the 3,000-odd works of art that he created in his lifetime, one-third were watercolors. He mastered the challenging medium that took hold in 1864, the year of his birth, transforming what was considered to be an urban and European art form into a pure expression of Western romance — illustrating the hardscrabble landscape, infinite horizons, and colorful characters with layer upon layer of transparent color and painstaking detail.
An extraordinary exhibition opening this weekend at the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, will display more than 100 of Russell's watercolors, demonstrating the best of his work in the medium and telling the story of the evolution of his art, from tiny sketchbooks to large-format paintings to book illustrations. The exhibit also includes a scientific analysis of the color spectrum of Russell's works, which have faded over time, as well as his original paints, brushes, and even the china plate that served as his final palette.
Considering the fact that watercolors are delicate works that curators don't like to display more than one month per year, this is a truly rare exhibit that should not be missed.
WANT A RUSSELL PRINT FOR YOUR DESK? To celebrate the opening of the watercolor exhibit, we're giving away a desk-size matted print of the painting above. All you have to do is "Like" the Cowboys & Indians page (if you haven't already), and leave a comment on the post about the exhibit. We'll pick a winner and announce it tomorrow!