At Home and in the Studio:The Interconnected Spheres of Charles and Nancy Russell
By Alison Fields
Historian Brian Dippie’s opening essay in the comprehensive Charles M. Russell: A Catalogue Raisonné, published in 2007, disrupts an enduring myth about “Montana’s cowboy artist”: that the self-taught artist achieved success on pure instinct, without regard for commercial concerns. Instead, Dippie’s contribution, along with other recent scholarship, has helped to center the critical role of Russell’s wife, Nancy Cooper Russell, in managing a business that led to Charlie Russell’s national and international recognition. Nancy’s contributions were well recognized by Charlie himself, who proudly said, “The lady I trotted in double harness with was the best booster an’ pardner a man ever had. She could convince anybody that I was the greatest artist in the world, an’ that makes a feller work harder. Y’u jes’ can’t disappoint a person like that.” From their marriage in 1896, Nancy directly shaped Charlie’s working environment, promoted his outsized personality, and successfully navigated the commercial market. The anchor for these interconnected efforts was their home and studio at 1219 Fourth Avenue North, Great Falls, Montana. From this base, Nancy managed Charlie’s entire business operation, while Charlie created an enduring body of paintings and sculptures depicting “the west as it was.” While Charlie thrived cooking cowboy dinners and reminiscing with longtime friends in his log cabin studio, he also contributed to Nancy’s formal meals in their home, creating carefully sculpted centerpieces and placards. This essay considers how these two interlocking spheres provide insight into the way that Nancy and Charlie envisioned their worlds as spaces reflective of Charlie’s telling comment: “she lives for tomorrow and I live for yesterday.” [I]Brian W. Dippie, “It Is a Real Business: The Shaping and Selling of Charles M. Russell’s Art,” in Charles M. Russell: A Catalogue Raisonné, ed. B. Byron Price (Norman: University of Oklahoma … Continue reading
Nancy Cooper Russell
Nancy Cooper Russell’s path into the art world was unconventional. She was born in Mannville, Kentucky, in 1878 and raised on a tobacco farm by her single mother, Texas Annie Mann. After her mother married James Allen and had a second child, Ella, the family moved to Helena, where James left the family. Texas Annie died when Nancy was sixteen years old, and James returned for Ella. On her own in Montana, Nancy found work in the home of Ben and Lela Roberts in Cascade. Nancy began a courtship with the Robertses’ close friend Charlie Russell, and they married in a humble service at the Robertses’ home on September 9, 1896, when Nancy was eighteen and Charlie thirty-two. While divergent in age and background, they brought together complementary strengths to forge a lasting union. Russell collector Thomas Petrie writes, “Nancy brought a personal talent, unrelenting drive, and sound judgment to the union. . . . Time and again she challenged him to do his best, and he rose to meet those expectations.”[II]Thomas A. Petrie, “Life in Double Harness: Reflections of Nancy Cooper Russell,” in Charles M. Russell: The Women in His Life and Art, ed. Joan Carpenter Troccoli (Great Falls, MT: C.M. Russell … Continue reading Nancy’s sincere admiration and belief in Charlie’s talent laid the foundation for her career as Charlie’s business manager and chief promoter.
Nancy and Charlie’s first marital home was a one-room outbuilding on the Robertses’ property, where Charlie had set up a makeshift studio. Charlie invested seventy-five dollars to fix it up, and while his wealthy family sent gifts like after-dinner spoons and a bonbon dish, he greatly preferred his collection of “Indian relics” and his treasured buffalo calf robe. Seeking a larger market for Charlie’s work, the couple soon moved to the rapidly modernizing Great Falls, known as the region’s Electric City and named after the five waterfalls along the upper Missouri River Basin that proved a major obstacle to the Lewis and Clark expedition. By the time the Russells arrived, the Black Eagle Falls dam had harnessed the falls to fuel a variety of industries, along with power telephones and electric lights.[III] John Taliaferro, Charles M. Russell: The Life and Legend of America’s Cowboy Artist (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2003), 111, 122. Moving to a small rental home on Seventh Avenue, Nancy engaged in one of her first promotional efforts on Charlie’s behalf, tipping off the Great Fall Tribune’s society column of their arrival.
During this time, Charlie’s friend and the owner of an art store in Butte, Charlie Schatzlein, gave Charlie many of his orders. “Do you know, Russell,” he said, “you don’t ask enough for your pictures. That last bunch you sent me, I sold one for enough to pay for six. I am paying you your price, but it’s not enough. I think your wife should take hold of that end of the game and help you out.” Soon, noting the need for a new cookstove and hay for the horses, Nancy delivered an artwork to a client and asked for a higher price than Charlie felt comfortable with. After the client paid without complaint, Nancy was encouraged to take a more active role in pricing and marketing Charlie’s work. While Nancy had little formal education, Charlie’s nephew Austin reflected that she was “as smart as a whip” and that “she was the nervous, excitable, energetic kind. Right from the start she went out determined to meet people, important people, the kind of people who could help Charlie along.”[IV] Austin Russell, C.M.R.: Charles M. Russell, Cowboy Artist, A Biography (Woodbridge, CT: Twayne, 1957). Nancy also demonstrated a particular brand of bravery during a ranch hold-up in 1898, when, along with two other women, she defended the property with her shotgun and “fired six shots” at the burglars before help arrived. While Nancy did not cause any injuries, a Tribune headline summarized the event: “Three Brave Women; At the Nelson Ranch, They Stand Off Burglars for Two Successive Nights; They Shoot to Kill and Do Not Consider the Help of Men Necessary.”[V] “Three Brave Women,” Great Falls Tribune, September 25, 1898.
Drawing on her energy, ambition, and independence, from 1896 Nancy took over all of Charlie’s business transactions, and by the early 1900s, she was fully managing his career. Nancy coordinated all of Charlie’s exhibitions, oversaw his sales, and arranged for reproductions of his images and duplications of his clay and wax models.[VI] “Artist Attributes Success to Wife’s Commercial Judgement,” Minneapolis Evening Tribute, December 20, 2019, 4. Early in their marriage, the couple also received guidance and support from Charlie’s Saint Louis–based father, Charles Silas Russell, a successful manufacturer who had attended Yale and was deeply impressed with Nancy.[VII] Charles Russell, Good Medicine: The Illustrated Letters of Charles M. Russell (Garden City, NY: Garden City Publishing, 1930), 87; Dippie, “It Is a Real Business,” 20, 24. A small inheritance from Charlie’s mother, Mary Russell, also helped the couple build a permanent home on Fourth Avenue North in Great Falls.
1219 Fourth Avenue North
Over the course of their marriage, the Russells’ home and studio on Fourth Avenue was the locus for the production and promotion of much of Charlie’s work. While the couple went on to build Bull Head Lodge, their cabin on Lake McDonald, and later spent winters in California, their home in Great Falls was their permanent home until Charlie’s death in 1926. In 1900 the Russells’ contractor friend George Calvert began construction on the modest two-story house at 1219 Fourth Avenue North.
Considered the premiere street of Great Falls, Fourth Avenue North was home to a range of professionals and notable citizens, with an eclectic assortment of houses bearing the architectural styles of their owners’ home regions.[VIII] Taliaferro, Charles M. Russell, 122. The Russells’ home featured a Victorian-styled exterior with Arts and Crafts influences at the porch. According to a Historic Structures Report for the home’s National Historic Landmark designation, the home’s interior floor plan was unconventional for its time, with its strong emphasis on rooms used for entertaining. Secondary spaces were basic and utilitarian, with little space left unused, creating a contrast with the well-appointed, more spacious principal rooms. For instance, the living room—which featured a large fixed window useful for Russell’s art production—was decorated with red-flocked wallpaper and deep red velvet furniture. Overall, the report notes, “The overall impression of the interior treatment of the residence is that the spaces that were used to receive guests were richly appointed, and that the spaces serving the needs of the family or that were utility spaces are very restrained and modest.”[IX]Historic Structures Report, Charles M. & Nancy C. Russell residence, National Historic Landmark Designation 66000430, Great Falls, Montana.
This white house on a notable street fulfilled a number of Nancy’s desires—a large porch for entertaining, a small parlor to serve as a waiting room for clients, a large living and dining room for hosting dinner parties, and a bathroom with hot and cold running water. Next to the kitchen was a small bedroom for their future maid, and upstairs were three large bedrooms and a storage room. The center bedroom would eventually become a nursery for their son, Jack. The house also featured some personalized touches from contractor friends, such as the full-length plate glass mirror installed on a hardwood door for Nancy and a granite ace-of-diamonds slab with a white buffalo skull and black horns, later placed in a high retaining wall in front of the property.[X] Russell, C.M.R., 104. The couple moved in in August 1900 with some fanfare—Nancy again arranged for an announcement in a local newspaper, and they hosted an open house for friends and neighbors. The Tribune ran the article “Charley in His New Home,” noting that “Charley has finally concluded to settled down for all time to come” in this “pretty and comfortable little home” with a small barn for his beloved calico horse, Monte.[XI]Joan Stauffer, Behind Every Man: The Story of Nancy Cooper Russell (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2008), 87; The C.M. Russell Home Story, Montana Federation of Garden Clubs; Taliaferro, … Continue reading
While Nancy sought out recognition from the community and developed close friendships such as those with her neighbors the Triggs, she could not fully find a foothold in Great Falls society. John Taliaferro, author of the first modern biography of Charles Russell, wrote, “Nancy Russell’s attempted entry into Great Falls society was met with a collective cluck of disapproval. Neither her gumption nor earnestness could redeem her humble roots. Despite the pride derived from being Mrs. Charles Russell, it galled Nancy no end that the world loved him better.”[XII] Taliaferro, Charles M. Russell, 123. Joan Stauffer’s imaginative Behind Every Man, told from Nancy’s perspective based on years of archival research, describes Nancy’s attempts to raise her social status by hosting frequent dinner parties at their home, where Charlie contributed elaborate tabletop decor. For example, for a Christmas dinner party with close friends, Charlie painted a background of two winter mountain scenes. A concealed electric light illuminated the prospector’s cabin and starry sky in the paintings, with animals, modeled in wax, placed in the foreground.[XIII]“The Week in Society,” Great Falls Tribune, December 27, 1908.
Nancy and Charlie’s collaboration on social events was evident in a Great Falls Daily society column’s recounting of a day of games held at the Russells’ home in February 1902. Ladies assembled with “keenest pleasure” for an afternoon of card games hosted by Nancy and Josephine Trigg, with Charlie providing the prize of a watercolor of a mounted Indian. The column reports that “although pink, white and red carnations, jonquils and ferns were used abundantly in every room, the home of Mr. and Mrs. Russell needs no adorning, for it is a veritable ‘happy hunting ground,’ so rich it is in rare and priceless Indian curious, and above all, in the art works of Mr. Russell.” Later that evening, a less formal gathering of “pig” was held, with the winner (“pig the most”) awarded a watercolor of an Indian head, while the less fortunate “no pig at all” received a clay figure of a pig.[XIV] “Society’s Doings,” Great Falls Tribune, February 9, 1902. While Taliaferro and Stauffer suggest it was challenging for Nancy to integrate into the top tier of Great Fall’s highly stratified society, Nancy and Charlie’s partnership was fully displayed at the events held in their home. Charlie also assisted with Nancy’s fundraising efforts in the Great Falls community. When Nancy took a leadership in the production of the operetta Little Almond Eyes to benefit the local Episcopal church, Charlie contributed by doing the cast’s makeup and creating the stage setting. [XV]“Little Almond Eyes Monday Night at Grand,” Great Falls Tribune, November 13, 1916; “Chinese Play Attracts Many: ‘Little Almond Eyes’ Draws Big Crowd to Grand for Benefit of Church,” … Continue reading
In addition to carving out a presence for the couple in the Great Fall’s community, Nancy played a direct role in Charlie’s working environment. In her quest to increase Charlie’s productivity, however, she alienated a number of Charlie’s longtime friends, who complained that she kept him “chained to his easel.” When they met, Charlie had been a “typical hard-drinking cowpuncher for eleven years, and his saloon drinking days lasted well beyond the end of his cowboy career in 1894.” Nancy tried to curb this habit, to the dismay of his drinking buddies. When they moved to Great Falls, Charlie’s routine was to paint in the morning and then go to the local saloons (the Mint or the Silver Dollar) in the afternoon. His habit of frequenting saloons, where he had set up his first studios and displayed his early work, was never entirely divorced from his art practice. Even when visiting with his friends, Charlie kept his hands in motion, modeling small figures of horses and other animals out of beeswax, then leaving them behind to see who would claim them. After these afternoons, he would be sure to return to Nancy for dinner. In two pen-and-ink drawings made for his friends at the Silver Dollar, titled As I Was and As I Am Now, Russell humorously reflected on the transition to married life.
While he had once ate his dinner alone in bare, unkempt surroundings, he now dressed for his meal with Nancy at a gracefully set table, using the formal silver tea set his Silver Dollar friends had given as a wedding gift.[XVI]Stauffer, Behind Every Man, 132; Raphael James Cristy, “Finding Modern Times in Charlie’s Published Writings,” in Charles M. Russell: A Catalogue Raisonné, ed. B. Byron Price (Norman: … Continue reading
When Nancy took on the promotion efforts for Charlie’s artwork, she turned away from circulating his work in saloons and turned instead to art shops. However, Russell continued to produce work for his friends. The self-portrait Charlie Himself, a mixed-media wax sculpture created for Silver Dollar owner Bill Rance, captures much of the persona that was well known in Great Falls.
Even among Montana cowboys, Russell’s style of dress stood out. He was usually seen wearing “soft collared shirts, loose, wide, ties, cowboy boots, several rings on his fingers,” with a bright red woven sash at his waist. The sash was made by a people that Charlie described as a “French Canadian half breed(s) of the Red River district, known as Red River Breed.” In Charlie Himself, curator Mindy Besaw writes, “The essence of his looks and personality are translated perfectly into three dimensions: square jaw, full head of blonde hair, and typical accessories of his hat tipped back, high-heeled boots, cigarette held causally in one hand, rings on several fingers, and the famous red sash.” As Russell’s contemporary Frank Bird Linderman reflects, “Charley’s boots and red sash were as much a part of him as his ears and nose.”[XVII]Cristy, “Finding Modern Times,” 159; Ginger K. Renner, “Frederic G. Renner: On the Trail of Charlie Russell,” in Charles M. Russell: A Catalogue Raisonné, ed. B. Byron Price (Norman: … Continue reading
Home and Studio
Inside their new home, Nancy and Charlie carved out separate areas for their respective work. The home served as a base for Nancy’s business dealings, where she could correspond with customers, framers, or advertisers. Nancy gave her full attention to promoting, exhibiting, and selling Charlie’s artwork, working from a desk in the parlor.
In addition to encouraging his painting and asking increasingly higher prices for his work, Nancy also sought out profitable illustration assignments. While Nancy took on all of Charlie’s business correspondence, Charlie provided illustrated letters to encourage patronage or express appreciation for previous purchases.[XVIII]Cristy, “Finding Modern Times,” 159; Dippie, “It Is a Real Business,” 26. As Nancy’s business skills developed and the prices of Charlie’s paintings increased, Charlie took only a mild interest in the financial side of his artwork. In a 1919 profile, Charlie was said to “fully appreciate the new comforts which began to appear in the home, but as to knowing the ‘how’ of the wonders his wife was working, he appreciated their intricacies as little as she does the ‘how’ of his paintings.”[XIX]“Artist Attributes Success to Wife’s Commercial Judgement,” Minneapolis Evening Tribute, December 20, 1919, 4.
For the first years in their home, Charlie took advantage of the natural light provided by the large living room window to create and display his work. He brought to the new home his many Native artifacts—blankets, moccasins, saddles, coup sticks, and war bonnets—to use as props for his paintings. In an interview with the Anaconda Standard in 1901, Charlie spoke with a reporter from the improvised studio in their living room. The reporter writes, “Indian robes and finery were scattered about. . . . On the walls were pen and ink sketches, watercolors and oil, all the products of his gifted fingers.” Another reporter visited from the Chicago Record in 1902, describing his studio space as “a veritable museum of cowboy and Indian curios.” Besaw notes that while his fascination with Northern Plains Indians was not uncommon for an artist of his time, it deeply impacted Russell’s life, as he “collected Indian artifacts, befriended Indians, communicated with Indians through sign language, and dressed as an Indian on several occasions.”[XX]McCracken, The Charles M. Russell Book, 187; Renner, “Frederic G. Renner,” 176; Besaw, “Charlie Russell in Wax,” 156.
When Charlie’s artifacts, supplies, and constant stream of guests began to overwhelm the home, Nancy insisted that a studio be built on the neighboring empty lot to the west. They agreed that the studio should resemble the log cabin Charlie had shared with a friend when he first moved to Montana. They employed George Calvert again, using surplus telephone poles to create the log cabin. As Nancy recalls in Good Medicine, as the studio was under construction, a neighbor asked Charlie if he was building a corral on his property. The comment made Charlie self-conscious about the ill fit between his rustic studio and the upscale neighborhood. He assumed neighbors “didn’t want the cabin mixed in with the civilized dwellings,” and because of that he tended to avoid the construction process. Only when it was complete and Albert Trigg insisted on touring the studio with him did Charlie express real pleasure at the outcome, commenting, “That’s going to be a good shack for me. The bunch can come visit, talk and smoke, while I paint.” From that day, Nancy reflected, “he loved that telephone pole building more than any other place on earth and never finished a painting anywhere else. The walls were hung with all kinds of things given him by Indian friends, and his horse jewelry, as he called it, that had been accumulated on the range, was as precious to him as a girl’s jewel box to her.” As Dippie notes, while the construction of the studio was Nancy’s idea, Charlie quickly “made it his domain” as a “studio, museum, and gathering place for cronies to share a smoke and swap stories.”[XXI]Renner, “Frederic G. Renner,” 176; Russell, Good Medicine, 88; Dippie, “It Is a Real Business,” 28.
The studio featured a large stone fireplace where Charlie could gather with close friends and, using a Dutch oven and frying pan, prepare “bachelor bread, boiled beans, and bacon” and dried apples and coffee for dessert. As Nancy recalled, Charlie used a flour sack as an apron, and when the food was prepared he’d yell, “come and get it!” After supper, Charlie would roll a cigarette, sit by the fire, and reminisce with his friends about his cowboying days. Charlie, who Nancy described as a “good mixer,” maintained many close and lasting friendships, and his charismatic storytelling about the frontier days repeatedly helped to draw audiences to his artwork. While Nancy understood the importance of this ritual to Charlie, during his working hours, she vigorously protected the studio from visitors. Fred Renner, who would become a leading expert on Russell, lived in Great Falls as a child and recalled attempts to go watch Charlie at work in his studio. With a friend, he would sneak up from the sidewalk below, avoiding Nancy, who “did not tolerate kids or old cowboy friends who took up Charlie’s time when he was painting.” If their luck held, they watched Charlie paint for a time, and then Charlie would roll a cigarette and ask what the kids thought of what he was working on. By holding Charlie to a rigid schedule, Jean Carpenter Troccoli writes, “Nancy steadily peeled away his time-consuming early associates as part of her enforcement of the discipline that ultimately led to his artistic and commercial success, but she could erase neither his past nor his personality.”[XXII]Russell, Good Medicine, 89; Renner, “Frederic G. Renner,” 176; Troccoli, “Poetry in Motion,” 60.
At Work in the Studio
At work in the studio, Charlie, who was famously self-taught, relied heavily on his memory for creating his desired scenes. While he could make sketches on the scene for his backgrounds, his subject matter—often “men and animals in violent action”—was impossible to pose. Instead, Charlie modeled figures in clay and wax, arranged them in complex scenes, and positioned them in the sun. Photographs taken inside Russell’s studio showed how important modeling was to his work process, with models at various stages regularly lining his shelves. In Rick Stewart’s consideration of Russell’s modeling, Stewart placed this practice as a central activity of the studio: “The models were made from a wide variety of materials that Russell kept on hand, including pieces of recycled leather, whittled sticks of wood, bits of sheet tin, many types of cloth, wire, small lengths of ribbon, glass beads, strips of birch bark, tufts of coarse moss, and strands of horse-hair and hemp.” Through his work in the studio, Charlie re-created his recollection of the American West of the 1870s and 1880s, “the West of cowboy pranks and Indian ceremonials, of buffalo and wolves, Rocky Mountain sheep and bears, and the cattle ranges—the West of ‘holdups’ and miscellaneous shootings, of cattle- and horse-stealing, of ‘bad men’ and quick gunplay.” To ensure accuracy in his depictions of clothing and equipment, Charlie relied on his own collection of objects from his years working on the range and from nearby reservations. In Study for the Sun Offering, for example, he replicated a Blackfoot dress from his studio collection. To depict landscapes, Charlie recorded scenes from just outside of town in Great Falls or, during summers at Bull’s Head, worked from his porch. However, Charlie reportedly finished every one of his paintings in his log cabin studio, including his epic mural Lewis and Clark Meeting Indians at Ross’ Hole. Charlie had to raise the roof of his studio to accommodate the twelve-by-twenty-five-foot canvas, which went on to hang at the house chambers of the state capitol.[XXIII]Ramon F. Adams, “Legacy of CM Russell,” Gilcrease Museum, January 27, 2016, https://collections.gilcrease.org/articles/article-legacy-cm-russell; Stewart, “Modeling in Clay, Plaster, and … Continue reading
In his image production, art historian Peter Hassrick notes Russell’s strength as a storyteller, creating “predicament pictures” where “man is tested against nature, often with a paradoxical, uncertain outcome in store.” This storytelling, cultivated in long evenings by the studio fireplace, became a central tenet of promoting Russell’s work. In addition to its role as a workshop and social hub, the studio played a frequent promotional role, with Charlie posing for many pictures with his horse and visitors.
Archival photographs also show a number of images of Charlie and Nancy dressed as cowboys or Indians. These images may have been aids for paintings but also part of promotional efforts. Hassrick writes, “Nancy seems to have thrived on the role of manager and businesswoman. She was probably even responsible for helping to create and maintain his public image, including his dress and lingo, so that his western eccentricities might make him marketable to an eastern audience.” In 1904 an issue of the New York Press with the headline “Smart Set Lionizing Cowboy Artist” featured a photograph of Russell on horseback and of the fireplace in his log studio along with images of Russell’s work.[XXIV]Peter H. Hassrick, “Charles Russell, Painter,” in Charles M. Russell: A Catalogue Raisonné, ed. B. Byron Price (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2007), 105; Michael Duchemin, “Nancy … Continue reading Again, Russell’s persona and his studio home base became a key aspect of marketing his work.
Nancy remained at the center of Charlie’s rising profile. A pivotal moment came in 1911, when his exhibition at the Folsom Galleries in New York City received positive attention. By this time, Nancy was “afloat on a sea of responsibilities: contracting, cultivating clients, negotiating commissions, capitalizing on Charlie’s charisma, cheerleading, and committing him to deadlines.” Under Nancy’s direction, Charlie went to one-man shows in Calgary in 1912, Winnipeg in 1913, and the Dore Galleries in London in 1914. In 1915 and 1916, Russell had major exhibitions in Chicago, New York City, and Pittsburgh, keeping the couple on the road for years on end. After adopting their son, Jack, in 1916, the Russells spent several years at home in Great Falls. While Nancy grew impatient with the lull, Charlie never felt at ease in his travels. Rather, he was “a homebody who rarely got to stay home.” Despite this reluctance, Charlie recognized the need to cultivate patrons on the East Coast and made adjustments to broaden the appeal of his work. In her efforts to promote Charlie’s work, Nancy attempted to get news stories placed ahead of his shows, “letting his personality and subject matter win over journalists.” Arthur Hoeber’s full-page story in the New York Times ahead of his Folsom Galleries show was one of her most successful efforts.[XXV]Dippie, “It Is a Real Business,” 34, 35, 38, 40; Hassrick, “Charles Russell, Painter,” 105. In addition to coordinating photo opportunities for the media, Nancy also hired photographers to capture images of their friends and family. In a set of images staged on their Great Falls porch in 1918, friend and photographer A. J. Thiri captures Nancy and a toddler Jack Russell, dressed in warm winter furs, laughing and embracing.
Nancy Russell’s Lasting Influence
In 1913 Charlie responded to a letter from Joe De Yong, an aspiring cowboy artist, who sought out his advice. De Yong moved to Montana the following year and began painting in alongside Charlie in his studio, becoming his protégé and friend. As Hassrick noted, through Charlie’s career, “He enjoyed having company when he painted and especially appreciated working side by side with other artists in the studio.” Nancy also used her influence to promote De Yong. De Yong was a cowboy from Oklahoma who lost his hearing after coming down with meningitis while working on a Tom Mix western. After reaching out and expressing his admiration, he spent many years working with Charlie in his studio. In 1917 correspondence with Literary Digest, Nancy describes De Yong as “a young fellow working in the studio with Mr. Russell these days” who had produced an oil color of a bucking bronco that “Chas thinks is good.” Vouching for his authenticity as someone like Charlie with firsthand knowledge of working in “cow country,” she continues, “This boy is not well known but he is going to be, as we think he has piles of ability. I know he will be delighted when he hears you are going to use the cover.” Nancy points to their joint work in the studio, suggesting that De Yong would produce similar work to Charlie. De Yong credited Nancy for teaching him the “art game behind the scenes,” noting, “it is a real business.”[XXVI]Hassrick, “Charles Russell, Painter,” 97; correspondence with Mr. Leppert, Literary Digest, NY; Brian Dippie, “It Is a Real Business,” 1. De Yong’s success in the art world reflected the influences of both Charlie and Nancy Russell.
Throughout his career, Charlie continued to credit Nancy’s efforts as the reason his work received such great acclaim, noting, “Nobody ever did think much of me until my wife began telling people about me. She’s a great booster.”[XXVII]“St. Louis Artist Back from West; Wife is Manager,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 16, 1910. After Charlie’s death, Nancy spent her remaining years focused on cementing Charlie’s legacy. While she continued to go to Bull’s Head with Jack, she permanently moved away from Great Falls, continuing to work from her newly constructed home, Trail’s End, in Pasadena, California. A public campaign allowed the City of Great Falls to purchase the Russells’ home and studio, where it was lived in by caretakers until 1965 and then stood empty. At the time of Charlie’s death on October 24, 1926, the couple had begun building a gallery addition to the log cabin studio to display “to display cowboy and Indian curios, artistic tools and equipment.” A subgroup of the Great Falls Chamber of Commerce organized as the Charles M. Russell Memorial Committee and in 1928 approved to maintain the Russell studio as a museum and memorial. This designation created the first museum of western art in the United States and a lasting testament to the significance of Charlie and Nancy’s home base in Great Falls.[XXVIII]The C.M. Russell Home Story, Montana Federation of Garden Clubs; Michael Duchemin, “Nancy Cooper Russell and the Art of Memorialization.”
|↑I||Brian W. Dippie, “It Is a Real Business: The Shaping and Selling of Charles M. Russell’s Art,” in Charles M. Russell: A Catalogue Raisonné, ed. B. Byron Price (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2007), 20, 58; Harold McCracken, The Charles M. Russell Book (New York: Doubleday, 1957), 184.|
|↑II||Thomas A. Petrie, “Life in Double Harness: Reflections of Nancy Cooper Russell,” in Charles M. Russell: The Women in His Life and Art, ed. Joan Carpenter Troccoli (Great Falls, MT: C.M. Russell Museum, 2018), 78.|
|↑III||John Taliaferro, Charles M. Russell: The Life and Legend of America’s Cowboy Artist (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2003), 111, 122.|
|↑IV||Austin Russell, C.M.R.: Charles M. Russell, Cowboy Artist, A Biography (Woodbridge, CT: Twayne, 1957).|
|↑V||“Three Brave Women,” Great Falls Tribune, September 25, 1898.|
|↑VI||“Artist Attributes Success to Wife’s Commercial Judgement,” Minneapolis Evening Tribute, December 20, 2019, 4.|
|↑VII||Charles Russell, Good Medicine: The Illustrated Letters of Charles M. Russell (Garden City, NY: Garden City Publishing, 1930), 87; Dippie, “It Is a Real Business,” 20, 24.|
|↑VIII||Taliaferro, Charles M. Russell, 122.|
|↑IX||Historic Structures Report, Charles M. & Nancy C. Russell residence, National Historic Landmark Designation 66000430, Great Falls, Montana.|
|↑X||Russell, C.M.R., 104.|
|↑XI||Joan Stauffer, Behind Every Man: The Story of Nancy Cooper Russell (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2008), 87; The C.M. Russell Home Story, Montana Federation of Garden Clubs; Taliaferro, Charles M. Russell, 128.|
|↑XII||Taliaferro, Charles M. Russell, 123.|
|↑XIII||“The Week in Society,” Great Falls Tribune, December 27, 1908.|
|↑XIV||“Society’s Doings,” Great Falls Tribune, February 9, 1902.|
|↑XV||“Little Almond Eyes Monday Night at Grand,” Great Falls Tribune, November 13, 1916; “Chinese Play Attracts Many: ‘Little Almond Eyes’ Draws Big Crowd to Grand for Benefit of Church,” Great Falls Tribune, November 14, 1916.|
|↑XVI||Stauffer, Behind Every Man, 132; Raphael James Cristy, “Finding Modern Times in Charlie’s Published Writings,” in Charles M. Russell: A Catalogue Raisonné, ed. B. Byron Price (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2007), 146; Rick Stewart, “Modeling in Clay, Plaster, and Wax,” in Charles M. Russell: A Catalogue Raisonné, ed. B. Byron Price (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2007), 114; Brian W. Dippie, “‘What a Pair to Draw To’: Charles M. Russell and the Art of Storytelling Art,” in The Masterworks of Charles M. Russell: A Retrospective of Paintings and Sculpture, ed. Joan Carpenter Troccoli (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2009), 170.|
|↑XVII||Cristy, “Finding Modern Times,” 159; Ginger K. Renner, “Frederic G. Renner: On the Trail of Charlie Russell,” in Charles M. Russell: A Catalogue Raisonné, ed. B. Byron Price (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2007), 175; Jean Carpenter Troccoli, “Poetry in Motion in the Art of Charles M. Russell,” in The Masterworks of Charles M. Russell: A Retrospective of Paintings and Sculpture, ed. Joan Carpenter Troccoli (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2009), 71; Mindy Besaw, “Charlie Russell in Wax,” in The Masterworks of Charles M. Russell: A Retrospective of Paintings and Sculpture, ed. Joan Carpenter Troccoli (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2009), 159.|
|↑XVIII||Cristy, “Finding Modern Times,” 159; Dippie, “It Is a Real Business,” 26.|
|↑XIX||“Artist Attributes Success to Wife’s Commercial Judgement,” Minneapolis Evening Tribute, December 20, 1919, 4.|
|↑XX||McCracken, The Charles M. Russell Book, 187; Renner, “Frederic G. Renner,” 176; Besaw, “Charlie Russell in Wax,” 156.|
|↑XXI||Renner, “Frederic G. Renner,” 176; Russell, Good Medicine, 88; Dippie, “It Is a Real Business,” 28.|
|↑XXII||Russell, Good Medicine, 89; Renner, “Frederic G. Renner,” 176; Troccoli, “Poetry in Motion,” 60.|
|↑XXIII||Ramon F. Adams, “Legacy of CM Russell,” Gilcrease Museum, January 27, 2016, https://collections.gilcrease.org/articles/article-legacy-cm-russell; Stewart, “Modeling in Clay, Plaster, and Wax,” 122, 124–25; Peter H. Hassrick, Charles M. Russell (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1989), 86; Kirby Lambert, “Montana’s Magnificent Russell,” in The Masterworks of Charles M. Russell: A Retrospective of Paintings and Sculpture, ed. Joan Carpenter Troccoli (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2009), 229.|
|↑XXIV||Peter H. Hassrick, “Charles Russell, Painter,” in Charles M. Russell: A Catalogue Raisonné, ed. B. Byron Price (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2007), 105; Michael Duchemin, “Nancy Cooper Russell and the Art of Memorialization,”|
|↑XXV||Dippie, “It Is a Real Business,” 34, 35, 38, 40; Hassrick, “Charles Russell, Painter,” 105.|
|↑XXVI||Hassrick, “Charles Russell, Painter,” 97; correspondence with Mr. Leppert, Literary Digest, NY; Brian Dippie, “It Is a Real Business,” 1.|
|↑XXVII||“St. Louis Artist Back from West; Wife is Manager,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 16, 1910.|
|↑XXVIII||The C.M. Russell Home Story, Montana Federation of Garden Clubs; Michael Duchemin, “Nancy Cooper Russell and the Art of Memorialization.”|