Great Falls, MT, June 15-September 15
This story was featured in the July 2012 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Order the Southwest Art magazine July 2012 print edition here, or purchase the Southwest Art magazine July 2012 digital download here. Or simply click here to subscribe to Southwest Art magazine and never miss a story!
Recognized as one of the leading artists of the Old West, Charles M. Russell created approximately 4,000 works of art during his lifetime. More than one-third of his paintings are watercolors, yet his work in this medium has never been examined in depth until recently. From June 15 through September 15, the C.M. Russell Museum hosts Romance Maker: The Watercolors of Charles M. Russell, the first national exhibition devoted solely to the artist’s work in watercolors.
Assembled from more than 20 public and private collections, the exhibition features approximately 100 watercolors by Russell that span his entire career—from his early works in the 1880s through the 1920s, including the last watercolor he ever produced. “We feel incredibly fortunate to be the second of only two places to show this collection,” says Sarah Burt, chief curator at the museum.
The exhibition was curated by Dr. Rick Stewart, nationally recognized Russell expert and former director and senior curator at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth, TX, where the exhibit was first shown. In addition to the watercolors, the exhibition includes a special section devoted to the technical aspects of Russell’s work. This section displays Russell’s personal studio materials—his paints, brushes, and last watercolor palette—and analyzes his innovative techniques for the first time.
A self-taught artist living in relative isolation in Montana, Russell began learning the transparent watercolor technique in the 1880s, a time when watercolor painting was becoming a popular hobby in the U.S. Many stores sold watercolor paints, brushes, and how-to books for these hobbyists. “The difference between Russell and your average person, of course, is that he’s a genius,” Burt says. “He’s so talented that he becomes one of the best artists of his time.”
Later in his career, Russell began layering watercolors to create a thicker build-up of paint, almost as if they were oil paints. “He did a lot of things that most watercolorists wouldn’t do,” Burt says. “One of the goals of this exhibition is to demonstrate that Russell should join the ranks of John Singer Sargent and Winslow Homer—he was just as skilled and brilliant.”
Stewart agrees. “The body of work on view in this exhibition represents the most memorable watercolors [Russell] created during his lifetime, placing him in the upper tier of American watercolorists at the turn of the 20th century,” he says. —Lindsay Mitchell
Featured in the July 2012 issue of Southwest Art magazine–click below to purchase:
Southwest Art magazine July 2012 digital download
Southwest Art magazine July 2012 print edition
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