This painting is numbered CR.PC. 248 in the online catalogue raisonné of the artist's work at www. russellraisonne.com.
Great Falls, Montana, C.M. Russell Museum, n.d.
Pensacola, Florida, Pensacola Museum of Art, The West: A Selection of Paintings from the Gerald Peters Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico, February-March 1986
Santa Fe, New Mexico, Gerald Peters Gallery, Charles M. Russell: The Artist in His Heydey, August-September 1995, no. 23, illustrated in color p. 71
Of the three most prominent turn-of-the-century painters of the West, Frederic Remington, Charles Marion Russell and Charles Schreyvogel, Russell was the only one to actually experience the cowboy lifestyle first-hand. Born in St. Louis, he grew up reading James Fenimore Cooper's novels of the frontier and the numerous dime store westerns, dreaming of living the life of a cowboy. When Russell was fifteen, his parents, frustrated by the boy's poor academic record and frequent truancy, arranged a trip to Montana, hoping that a summer out West would instill in the boy direction and discipline. Much to his parents' disappointment, however, Russell never came back. He had arrived in Montana just after the beginning of the great western cattle boom and soon found work, first as a horse wrangler, then as a cowboy.
Years later, friends would recall a young wrangler called "Kid Russell" who was always sketching scenes of life on the great cattle drives or modeling horses out of wax. By the 1890s, the naive, but wonderfully evocative works of a self-taught amateur had been replaced with oils and watercolors painted with an astonishing level of proficiency. Russell decided in 1893 to leave the cowboy life behind and purse a full-time career as an artist and illustrator. Earning a reputation as "The Cowboy Artist," he devoted the rest of his life to documenting scenes of the rapidly disappearing cowboy culture and frontier way of life, as well as romantic visions of the West as it was in the days before the arrival of the settlers.
Throughout his oeuvre, Russell translated his life as a cowboy into energetic action-filled scenes. "Russell had a number of favorite subjects, variations of which he would paint or draw many times over. His roping subjects were executed both in oil and watercolor media, perhaps at different times, and always with different compositional results. For years, there were stories of white wolves of prodigious strength in the Judith Basin country that he knew well. With the destruction of their natural prey, the buffalo, wolves turned to the white man's cattle and soon became a serious problem to early Montana cowmen. Though present day sentiment condemns the "sport" of roping wolves, it was one of the diversions that offered excitement and challenge to cowboys around the turn of the century. Whether roping cattle, mustangs, wolves of grizzlies, these scenes occupied Russell's imagination throughout his artistic career and depicted moments of high drama and danger. He imbued his portrayals of old-time cowhands, both at work and play, with precision and insight" (Charles M. Russell: The Artist in His Heyday, 1995, p.70).
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