September 6, 2010

C. M. Russell, artist

A while back I went with a group of people to the Museum of Fine Arts Houston to look at and discuss Charles M. Russell. Now first of all I am not a fan of "cowboy" art, I don't care so much for C & W music either, but that does not mean I can't appreciate its art form. My take of the Exhibit: The Masterworks of Charles M. Russell: a Retrospective of Paintings and Sculpture. Artshounds Part of "An American Season" is as follows.

Russell is said to have been a humorist as well as a painter and sculptor. I'll be talking about his painting. Before he became known as an artist, Russell was a real live working cowboy on the back of a horse, sitting around camp fires, singing to the cattle during long nights to keep them calm. So he saw and knew how horses, cattle and probably how all wild and free animals behaved in certain circumstances, not to mention his fellow cowboys.

He began doodling on letters to friends and family, and was quite good at it. I expect they were recreations of events he experienced. During his time off the trail, back at home he would paint scenes of cowboy life. Russell was self taught therefore his compositions and colors were not what Art Enthusiast expected nor necessarily liked, yet there was truth in them. And it was that truth that drew city dwelling people to Russell and his scenes of the rugged west. Drawing them into the experience of the west and planting a longing into some to travel to see for themselves the wonders of the raw land.

Even in the beginning of his career the expressions worn by his characters were somewhat realistic, but in an exaggerated way, making their reactions to the scene they were captured in humorous and enduring. Russell had a way of giving action to the scene not only by way of hats flying in the air or bean pans being knocked over, but also with the way he incredibly made spit that fly from the mouth of cattle or buffalo.

After he visited art museums in New York City (get a rope) he saw where he could improve his work by using color and composition to lead a viewer into the scene. It was after that that his skies and vegetation came to life and I could see where the comp was indeed better.

Like I said at the beginning of this post I'm not a fan of Cowboy/Western type of anything, but C. M. Russell's natural talent and learned ability has something to offer to any art lover. I'll also tell you that his renditions of dust clouds and exhaled breath of animals on a cold day was wonderful. Russell had a uncanny ability to paint life as it was bringing forth some of its most poignant moments of beauty, fear, suffering, perplexing and downright funniness.

FTC Disclaimer: I received no compensation of any kind for my opinions expressed herein.

So what kind of Art Exhibits or Museums have y'all been to see lately?


Karin Bartimole said...

I'm with you, as a non-fan of cowboy art, but like you, being able to see the talent of another and appreciate how they choose to use it is also a good thing :) I always find that when I learn a little about the artist and their back ground I start to like their art more, too, even if it isn't a style that I'm drawn to initially. He definitely has an interesting back story!
I haven't been to any shows or museums for quite a while, but hopefully this fall I'll get out and about again!

Jamie Lynn said...

And I know you will be!

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