Romance and the Buffalo Hunt The lady Charles M. Russell would wed improved his study and treatment of frontier buffalo hunts.

Charles M Russell True West Magazine Buffalo Hunt
Charles M. Russell titled portrayals of one of his most favorite subjects simply the “buffalo hunt.” For ease of identification, collectors have added numbers to these works. Among his earliest portrayals, this circa 1895 oil, Buffalo Hunt No. 7, hammered as the top lot at $1.25 million.
— All images courtesy C.M. Russell Museum’s “The Russell” Benefit Auction —

Nancy Cooper clearly fired up Charles M. Russell’s imagination when they met in 1895 (a year later, 32-year-old Charlie would marry 18-year-old Nancy). While their romance was budding, Charlie improved on his earlier portrayals of buffalo with Buffalo Hunt No. 7, which hammered down as the top lot at the C.M. Russell Museum’s “The Russell” benefit auction on March 17 for $1.25 million.

Charles M Russell True West Magazine
Based on a real-life bear encounter by prospectors Hank Winters and “Bed Rock” Jim, Russell’s 1899 Just as Everything is Turning Black, I Hear Bed Rock’s Winchester watercolor hammered at $190,000.

The oil features a strong portrayal of the American Indian hunter on his paint horse, drawing his decorated quiver onto the center of the action. The hunt looks to be taking place in the Arrow Creek area north of Stanford, Montana, where Charlie rode as a cowboy during his Judith Basin open range days.

Charles M Russell True West Magazine Indians Herding Horses
Indians Herding Horses Across River, an 1894 watercolor that hammered at $160,000, portrays Piegans and Crows stealing horses in the Judith Basin region. Russell biographer Harold McCracken stated this work, at 20.5 by 33 inches, is among the largest Russell watercolors.

The painting is a fine example of Russell portraying Indians in a compassionate light, instead of as barbaric hostiles, and of a subject popular among his fans. Cowboy actor Will Rogers was among those who purchased his buffalo hunt artworks.

The 1895 oil differed from his earlier works because he was able to achieve a greater degree of depth by bringing less definition to the hunters in the background.

Charles M Russell True West Magazine
Russell experimented with the Impressionistic style for this 1902 watercolor, Assiniboine War Party; $150,000.

The artist also tested his viewer’s observation skills by placing a coiled rattlesnake near uprooted sagebrush, to the right of and slightly below the buffalo. He employed this device in many of his finest works, such as Lewis and Clark Meeting Indians at Ross’ Hole. 

Collectors earned more than $4.3 million on artworks sold at the benefit auction. The artists ranged from master artists such as Joseph Henry Sharp to contemporary artists such as Andy Thomas. Featured here are the top lots, all Russell artworks.

Upcoming Auctions

June 9, 2018

Glenwood J. Swanson’s Custer and Indian Wars Collection

Heritage Auctions (Dallas, TX)

HA.com • 877-437-4824

June 9, 2018

Western Art

Prix de West (Oklahoma City, OK)

PDW.NationalCowboyMuseum.org • 405-478-2250

June 9, 2018

Navajo Rug Auction

Museum of Northern Arizona (Flagstaff, AZ)

MusNAZ.org • 928-774-5213

June 12-15, 2018

Firearms

Morphy Auctions (Denver, PA)

MorphyAuctions.com • 877-968-8880

June 21-24, 2018

Firearms

Rock Island Auction (Rock Island, IL)

RockIslandAuction.com • 800-238-8022

June 22, 2018

American History

Cowan’s Auctions (Cincinnati, OH)

Cowans.com • 513-871-1670

June 23, 2018

Old West Memorabilia

Brian Lebel’s Old West (Santa Fe, NM)

OldWestEvents.com • 480-779-9378

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Meghan Saar

Meghan Saar is the former editor of True West, the world’s oldest, continuously published Western Americana magazine. She has worked in niche publication content development since 2002, and she has a B.S. in Journalism and Creative Writing from the University of Arizona—Tucson.