Russell Paints A Masterpiece Western Art by Andy Thomas
Capturing Charlie Russell with his friend Joe DeYong in Russell’s studio.
The artist Joe DeYong (1984-1975) met his mentor Charles Russell in the summer of 1914 as a wide-eyed nineteen-year-old newly relocated to Montana for the sole purpose of being near his hero. In a letter to a family friend recounting a second, early November, 1914 visit to Russell’s log cabin studio, DeYong described in wonderment the scene he saw before him:
When I walked in the studio in the morning, Russell was standing in front of a big Buffalo picture working, he had on his coat and hat it was kind of cool in there as the back door was open and there wasn’t any fire going, he wears boots Stetson and a sash around his waist (one of these knit sashed like you see in pictures of Mexicans.)
This big Buffalo picture is an order from some one in Helena. It is sure a peach-a big bunch of buffalo coming up on the back of a river, a whole lot swimming the river and more coming as far as you can see. A big wolf is trotting along too. The water is dripping off these buffalo and it sure looks natural. There is a big tree in the foreground that has been washed up and the beaver have nawed it almost in two. Russell sure burns up the Durham, he works a while and then rolls a cigarette and stands and smokes while he studies the picture. He would paint a while then stop and talk or write, it depended on whether I could understand what he said or not.
DeYong continues in the letter to describe several other Russell paintings hanging in the studio on the morning of his visit.
The painting on the easel is When the Land Belonged to God. The paintings arrayed around the easel, going clockwise and starting in the lower left corner with the partial painting on the floor are, The Slick Ear, Whiskey Smugglers Caught with the Goods, The Bell Mare, At Rope’s End, Whose Meat? and One of the Rough String. The painting on the floor in the lower right is Jumped.
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