Western Art Week: Charlie Russell's Birthday - KFBB.com News, Sports and Weather

Western Art Week: Charlie Russell's Birthday

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We're having a little break from the events of Western Art Week to take a look at the inspiration himself, Charlie Russell.  This guy was out among the cowboys, both as an actual cowboy growing up and as he continued to paint them into his adult life.  Today, we're going to a look at how he impacted the past as well as continue to influence the present.

"He came to Montana in 1864 as a 16 year old cowboy to work on the last frontier.  When he came, he recognized already that this was a historical moment, that these open ranges would disappear eventually and he wanted to be part of that," said Michael Duchemin, Museum Director.

It's in the studio where genius transfers to the canvas, and while many great artists' studios are lost to time, Charlie Russell's in right here at the museum.

"Well, when I think of Charlie Russell's studio especially, I think of lightning in a bottle.  This is the place where these fantastic paintings were created.  One great story is that to do the great mural in the state capitol building in Helena, the mural was so big that Charlie had to raise the roof on the studio and extend the length of it in order to get the canvas inside his studio so he could paint it," said Duchemin.

Russell's greatness wasn't limited to his technical skill.  The way he encapsulated the idea of life in the west captured the hearts and minds of the world.

"Russell was really able to reflect that earlier time for people in that very significant change point in world history as we move from the 19th into the 20th century," said Duchemin.

As the life and work of Charlie Russell are celebrated on his 150th birthday, the hope is his ideals will still ring true today.

"Well, as we're celebrating the 150th anniversary of Charlie Russell's birth and as we're putting on such a huge event for Western Art Week, what we really hope that will come from all of that is this respect and remembrance and commemoration for that spirit of the west that's alive in Great Falls, that's alive in Montana, that's alive in everyone that comes to take part in this great celebration," said Duchemin.

The hearse that Russell's body was carried in after he died is at the museum.  Now, despite the fact that cars were already invented, Russell insisted on going out the same old fashion way that he lived.  The good news is we continue to celebrate his life here with Western Art Week, and tomorrow we're going to take a behind the scenes look at how all the events come into being.