Charles M. Russell (1864–1926)
“For Supremacy”
Oil on canvas
23 1/8 x 35 in.
Live Auction at The Russell: An Exhibition and Sale to Benefit the C.M. Russell Museum

Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Charles Marion Russell (1864–1926) dreamed of becoming a cowboy. At the age of sixteen, Russell came to the Judith Basin of central Montana. Jake Hoover, a hunter and trader, took the young man under his wing and taught him the ways of the wilderness. As Hoover’s animal skinner and apprentice, the young Russell learned firsthand the anatomy of the animals he would later paint and sculpt.

Beginning in 1882, Russell worked as a night herder, a job that gave him the opportunity during the day to observe, sketch, and document the activities and excitement of the cow camps. He worked as a cowboy and wrangler for eleven years before retiring in 1883 to become a full-time artist.

Russell greatly admired the Northern Plains Indians, closely observing their ways during summer of 1888, when he lived near the camps of the Blackfeet, Piegan, and Blood Indians in Alberta, Canada. This experience is reflected in the many detailed works he created of Plains Indian life.

In 1896, Russell married Nancy Cooper, and she quickly assumed the role of business manager.  In 1900, the couple built a modest frame house in Great Falls and, three years a later, a log studio where Russell completed the majority of his significant works. Charlie and Nancy adopted a son, Jack, in 1916. Russell died of congestive heart failure in his Great Falls home on October 24, 1926.

Russell created approximately 4,000 works of art during his lifetime. His art is first and foremost that of a storyteller. He was the first “Western” artist to live the majority of his life in the West. For this reason, Charlie knew his subject matter intimately, setting the standard for many Western artists who came after him.

The 1895 oil painting “For Supremacy” is expected to sell for between $1,500,000 and $2,500,000, the highest priced painting ever to appear in The Russell. The painting depicts a battle between the Blackfeet and Crow Indians and is 35 inches wide by 23 1/8 inches high. 

Brian Dippie, Ph.D., professor emeritus of history at the University of Victoria, British Columbia, explains that the painting demonstrates Russell’s growing skills at the time and his natural gift for portraying “vivid and revealing action.” 

Dippie said the composition of the painting is ingenious. “Riders racing out of the picture on either side are anchored by the set piece in the center pitting a dismounted war chief, his wounded black horse beside him, and an enemy warrior charging past on an eye-catching white horse. This one-on-one duel holds the picture together, imposing order on chaos and rendering the battle’s furious action coherent.”

The Russell: An Exhibition and Sale to Benefit the C.M. Russell Museum
March 19–21, 2015
Great Falls, Montana
All-event ticket: $275 museum member; $325 non-member

Russell Skull Society of Artists Suites
Mansfield Convention Center    
March 19–21, 2015
Thursday, March 19: 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
Friday, March 20: 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
Saturday, March 21: 10 a.m.– 4 p.m.
Free and open to the public

The Russell Art Preview Party
C.M. Russell Museum
March 19, 2015, 6–8 p.m.
$40 museum member; $50 non-member

Art in Action® Quick-Finish Event
Meadow Lark Country Club
March 20, 2015, 10 a.m.–2 p.m.
$50 museum member; $60 non-member

First Strike Friday Night Auction
Mansfield Convention Center
March 20, 2015, 6–9 p.m.
$40 museum member; $50 non-member

Educational Symposium: A New Vision of Wilderness: Nineteenth-Century American Art, Conservation, and the National Park Movement
Missouri Room at the Mansfield Center for the Performing Arts
March 21, 2015, 9 a.m.–noon
Free and open to the public

The Russell Live Auction
Mansfield Convention Center
March 21, 2015, 5 p.m. Social hour, 6 p.m. Auction and Sale
$175 museum member; $200 non-member

The Russell delivers a wide-range of acquisition opportunity for the western art collector, with each event offering an authentic experience. Friday Night’s First Strike focuses solely on contemporary art in a lively, relaxed venue. The western art experience continues in Saturday’s Live Auction, where the stakes are raised by layering in historically significant works by Charles M. Russell and other masters in a highly competitive atmosphere. 

With a fun-filled schedule of events, exhibitions, and activities, The Russell patron’s purchases and participation are in direct support of the C.M. Russell Museum and its mission to protect the legacy of Russell’s West.


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