I’ve found another 19th century masculine success story, but he doesn’t quite qualify as unknown. In fact, he became rather famous thanks to the promotional skills of his wife Nancy. He was something of a Renaissance Man who did some of his best work in the 20th century and lived until 1926. What I didn’t realize about Charles Marion Russell until I went to the Sid Richardson Museum in downtown Fort Worth was that he had a terrific sense of humor.
Charles Russell, like me, was born in St. Louis, MO. Unlike me, he spent his young years filling sketchbooks with pictures of Native Americans and explorers. When he was 16, he went to Montana and found a mountain man, Jake Hoover, to emulate. Russell found steady work as a night herder and cowboy and began traveling with watercolors and brushes in his saddlebag. He was a cowboy for about a decade before gaining marketable artistic skills and a wealth of frontier experiences. He soon also had a growing national reputation. By 1914 he had exhibited in successful shows in New York and London. Actors like Douglas Fairbanks began to buy his stuff. Russell died of congestive heart failure after completing more than 4,000 works. A man who unlike most museum guards really liked his job invited me to study his favorite Russell painting in the Sid Richardson Museum and told me that he liked it because it showed so much humor. I began to see what was suddenly pretty obvious and began looking for other examples.
Here are 4 of them. The 1st two were in the Sid Richardson, which only has space to exhibit about one-third of its collection at any time. Even their names–“When Cowboys Get in Trouble” and “Man’s Weapons Are Useless When Nature Goes Armed”–are funny. The 3rd and 4th are in the Amon Carter Museum, also in Forth Worth, and the R. W. Norton Art Gallery in Shreveport, LA.
Like the Amon Carter, the Sid Richardson Museum also has a number of Frederic Remington’s on display. More famous for his sculptures, Remington also completed some paintings. His “Self-Portait on a Horse” got my attention, and I brought the guard over to point out that Remington, who died of appendicitis at the age of 48, was well on his way towards becoming the United States 1st successful Impressionist. He agreed with me.