Oconee Regional Library

Book Review Twenty

October 24, 2008

"That is, I have attempted to record in the form of paintings what little I could of the old life on the great ranches in the northwestern states... The big ranches have gone and the Indians and the buffalo have gone. ..the only record of the wild, untamed life of the plains and prairies will be written on canvas."

Charles Marion Russell

Whether you are an ardent admirer of art depicting the American West or even have the slightest curiosity about it, this new volume should be one that you consider. Charles M. Russell: A Catalogue Raisonneé is the result of a ten year collaboration between the Charles M. Russell Center for the Study of Art of the American West at the University of Oklahoma and the C. M. Russell Museum in Great Falls, Montana. This work satisfies the final stipulation of the Russell estate to establish a perpetual memorial to Russell's art. The time spent on this tribute to Russell is reflective of its size-10" x 12", 5.6 pounds, and 348 pages. What sets ...A Catalogue Raisonneé apart is its connection to a website which provides access to over 4,000 of Russell's works. The website will be continually updated and is searchable in several ways, such as year, exhibition, medium, or title. Each individual volume has its own password and the user name for the Library's copy can be obtained at the circulation desk.

The book's six chapters provide adequate biographical information along with how Russell's work became commercially viable. Other sections deal with Russell's painting, sculpture, his published writings, and reminisces of a collector's search for Russell's portrayals. Each chapter is followed by numerous pages of related bibliographic notes. Along with examples of his art accompanying the text, there are ninety-four pages of plates depicting Russell's most popular paintings. If you prefer to just glance over the text, an excellent chronology of the life of Charles Russell is available just before the index.

This month marks the anniversary of Russell's death in 1926. For thirty-nine of his sixty-two years, Charles Russell devoted himself full time to that which he loved most, recording the history of the American West. In 1911 he was paid $5,000 by the state of Montana for a 12' x 25' mural for its House of Representatives. In 2005, his painting of a Blackfoot hunting party, Piegans, was auctioned for $5.6 million. Charles M. Russell is the only artist honored in Washington, D. C.'s Statuary Hall.

The Laurens County Library also has on its shelves the definitive biography: Charles M. Russell the Life & Legend of America's Cowboy Artist by John Taliferro, which is currently out of print.

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