The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 70, July 1966 - April, 1967

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

Charles M. Russell: Paintings, Drawings, and Sculpture in the
Amon G. Carter Collection. By Frederic G. Renner. Fore-
word by Ruth Carter Johnson. Austin (University of Texas
Press), 1966. Pp. 148. $17.50.
This is beyond question the best book yet devoted to Russell's
work. This reviewer drove over to Fort Worth, book in hand,
to check the color reproductions against the originals, curious
to see if they were as faithful as memory suggested. Actual con-
frontation confirms that they are; the book represents super-
lative artistic fidelity, not only in the matter of color but also
in regard to display on the page, dimensions of the original pre-
served in size of the "cut," margins and "wall space," so to speak,
on the surrounding page. The book is a triumph of intelligent
production.
The text by Frederic Renner, authoritative in every way, is
much more than "a descriptive catalogue." Renner has the gift
of economy. He offers just the right amount of detail on Rus-
sell's life, just the needed explication for the works of art. This
"explication" is not, however, very often aesthetic. Renner avoids,
or neglects, critical comment. He is concerned, and rightly in
this work, to provide comment on content rather than on form.
For him, Russell's primary importance is not that of artist but of
pictorial historian. The commentary becomes a miniature "crash
course" in the history of the cattle range.
This emphasis seems right. Though not wholly unschooled in
techniques, Russell was in a sense a "primitive" painter and
largely self-taught. Like Renner, a native Montanan who knew
Russell personally, Charlie Russell was less interested in "com-
position" than in ring-tailed cattle, buffalo hunts, Indian fights,
grizzly bears, feats of roping, stagecoach hold-ups, prospectors,
posses, and every aspect of life in the West in the last quarter
of the nineteenth century. Russell was also in love with the land-
scapes, as his paintings so magnificently show. He said, "No
king of the old times could have commanded a more beautiful
and bountiful domain."
Luckily, this fundamentally Bohemian temperament (born
into a very distinguished Missouri family) wanted most of all

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 70, July 1966 - April, 1967. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101199/. Accessed July 10, 2014.