Saturday, August 21, 2010

Discovering C.M. Russell in Montana


Western painter C.M. Russell's expansive volume of work is highly collected, exhibited and used to illustrate the old American West. In the place where Montana's past is celebrated, the painter's 1896 work, "Indians Discovering Lewis and Clark" is among the collection at the Montana Historical Society in Helena, Montana.

Russell drew a lot of subjects. He also was known to illustrate letters to friends. This two page letter from Russell, also exhibited at the Montana Historical Society shows a modern day hiking scene with an encounter with a mama grizzly bear.

While reading the letter from Russell I noticed its date - August 12, 1912. That was 98 years and 1 day before I saw it. Cosmic.

Today I found a book on paintings of the Old West in Muscatine, Iowa. It contained a chapter on C.M Russell which also highlighted the Discovery painting. Must be epic.

Russell is also celebrated in the nearby Montana Capitol building. In one of the chambers there is an enormous painting of his of the Lewis and Clark talking to Indians about navigating further west to the Pacific.

If you find yourself in Helena, go check out the Russell display and other pieces of Montana's past. Also saddle up to the Windbag Saloon for a burger - it used to be a bordello in downtown Helena. Then take a walk up Last Chance Gulch, stopping to visit the Bullwhacker statue. Lively. Know that.