Russell’s Studio Practice:The Flood Collection
By Jodie Utter
Charles Russell was a prolific artist; he painted in oil and watercolor, sculpted in wax, plaster and clay and he drew numerous sketches, creating thousands of finished pieces and even more preliminary works. It is thought that Russell produced more than three thousand finished works in his lifetime. Russell’s Great Falls art studio was the site of much of that incredible hard work and productivity. At the time of his death in 1926, he was the highest paid living artist in America.
In the last decade of his life, Russell took on his only protégé, Joe De Yong.[I]“On Jan. 3, 1916, It was my good fortune to have commenced working in Charlie Russell’s studio, and from that day on, for the next ten years.” Joe De Yong research notes, 975-12-0456_94, … Continue reading Because De Yong was essentially deaf, they communicated with notes. The notes, sketches, and photographs shared between the two men form the bulk of the C.M. Russell Museum’s Flood Collection, providing insight into Russell’s artistic practice, his beliefs about art and other artists, and a record of the varied objects created in the studio. In addition, the communication between the two men provide an invaluable insight into the relationship between them, as well as Russell’s philosophy, his influences, and his teaching style.
The art studio, built in 1903 using telephone poles, looked like a log cabin. The building didn’t quite blend in with his upper-middle-class neighborhood of Great Falls, but it suited Russell perfectly. For a man who made a living looking backward into the past, the studio felt and looked the part of a place Russell could create his art. Russell’s protégé, Joe De Yong would later write, “The atmosphere of his studio, ‘the cabin,’ as he and the family spoke of it—carried an invigorating aromatic-blend of cigarette smoke, picture-varnish, and a subtle odor of smoke-tanned buckskin and the odor of sweet pine which usually clung to any Indian article, or garment, in any way connected with anything of a ceremonial type.”[II]De Yong describing Russell’s art studio, Joe De Yong research notes, 975-12-0456_55, Flood Collection. In 1911 the height of the log walls had to be raised to accommodate an enormous twelve-by-twenty-five-foot canvas for Russell’s first large scale mural, Lewis and Clark Meeting Indians at Ross Hole, a commission for the Montana House of Representatives Chamber. Preliminary drawings for parts of the mural can be found among the many sketches in the Flood Collection.[III]975-12-0565_02_600; 975-12-0565_01_600; 975-12-0606_01_600, Flood Collection. These three sketches appear related to the Montana State House mural Russell completed in 1912.
Russell’s studio is significant because it was left largely intact after his death, providing a rare opportunity to see a nearly complete snapshot of a professional artist’s creative life and preferences. The artistic tools and artists’ materials left behind illustrate his preferences for brands, colors, papers, paints, and brushes. In addition, a variety of objects, mainly sculptural, were left behind in various stages of production, providing a glimpse into his process, as do his reference materials including Native garments, blankets, artifacts, and even pages from encyclopedias of illustrations detailing arms and armor through history.[IV]Illustration of armor through history, C.M. Russell Museum, Studio Collection.
The Flood Collection
The Charles M. Russell and Joe De Yong Research Materials from Richard J. Flood II (hereafter the Flood Collection) consists of more than three hundred notes, drawings, and photographs, many of which were preliminary sketches by Charles Russell for finished works of painting and sculpture. The papers Russell used for many of the sketches and notes ranged in quality, size, intended use, and condition. Many of the pages were torn along one edge, suggesting they came from paper tablets; some pieces were cut-down pieces of magazines, envelopes, or other stray scraps of paper.
Flood purchased the collection from Joe De Yong, who had gathered the material over the ten years he worked alongside Russell as his only protégé. A portion of the collection went to the C.M. Russell Museum in 1975 and included the notes and sketches passed between De Yong and Russell.[V]Part of the Flood Collection went to the C.M. Russell Museum in 1975; another portion went to the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in 1980. Of significance, De Yong came into Russell’s life and studio during the last decade of the artists’ life, as he gained greater and greater recognition and popularity, making for an intriguing view of one of the most celebrated artists of the American West. De Yong spent a significant portion of his time living with the Russell family and working with Russell in his studio. Due to De Yong’s hearing difficulties, he and Russell often relied on handwritten notes and sketches to discuss the subject matter and methodology of Russell’s art, as well as various other topics of the day. These informal papers offer a rare insight into the artist’s methods, thought processes, and style of teaching, including practical words of wisdom on pitfalls to avoid.
In his studio or in his daily life, Russell would often have a sketchbook or piece of paper close at hand to jot down his ideas with a quick sketch. His ideas seemed to pour from an endless well, resulting in countless sketches in varying states of finish. De Yong writes that Russell’s “ability to concentrate was such that he sometimes would unthinkingly draw one picture directly over another. He also sketched on his open palm with either the tip of his right forefinger or the end of a burned match[,] being able . . . to see the results clearly as if all such had been done in pencil.”[VI]De Yong describes Russell’s power of concentration while drawing, Joe De Yong research notes, 975-12-1012, Flood Collection. Russell habitually worked in his studio each morning, producing numerous works of painting, sculpture, illustrations, and sketches. De Yong observed how Russell would often start the day: “Having rolled a cigarette he . . . would . . . pick up a pencil and whatever scrap of paper might be within reach.”[VII]De Yong describing how Russell would often start his day with sketching, Joe De Yong research notes, 975-12-429, Flood Collection.
The sketches found in the Flood Collection represent preliminary ideas, and subjects for reuse. Russell repeated himself on numerous occasions, one example being Christmas Dinner for Men on the Trail (1905) and Where Tracks Spell Meat (1916).[VIII]Christmas Dinner for Men on the Trail , Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, 1961.100, transparent and opaque watercolor on paper; Where Tracks Spell Meat , Gilcrease … Continue reading These two paintings created eleven years apart, appear to be from the same sketch or series of sketches.[IX]Three sketches that appear related to Christmas Dinner for Men on the Trail and Where Tracks Spell Meat, 975-12-0598_01_600, 975-12-0598B_01_600, 975-12-0795_01_600, Flood Collection. It’s possible that the Flood Collection sketches were made after the watercolor Christmas Dinner, but it seems unlikely that he would still have the watercolor eleven years after painting it. Russell used sketchbooks and paper tablets; such books might have served as storage, keeping sketches safely tucked away until needed again. His sketchbooks essentially functioned liked diaries for his ideas and could easily have been stashed safely away until needed again. The watercolor version measures 16ʺ × 22ʺ, while the oil is 30 ¼ʺ × 48ʺ, making the oil painting Where Tracks Spell Meat about twice as large as the watercolor. Both scenes are intensely cold and forbidding, but the landscape in the later painting does seem more vast and more colorful, emphasizing the solitude of the central figure and thereby distilling the intense emotion of the composition. The watercolor, Christmas Dinner for Men on the Trail, is pale, colors muted from the wind-whipped snow. While the two paintings are not identical, they seem deeply related to one another.
The Flood Collection sketches also include drawings of finished bronze sculptures. In one instance Russell drew three ideas for sculptures on one sheet of paper, The Last Laugh, Indian Family [Indian Man], and [Indian Woman].[X]All three sculptures, The Last Laugh, Indian Family [Indian Man], and [Indian Woman], are owned by the Amon Carter Museum, accession nos. 1961.113, 1961.122, 1961.123, bronze. In all three cases the sketches are fairly general, consisting mainly of the outline of each piece. The Last Laugh is drawn with an outline of a wolf looking at a round object to one side. Russell wrote “Skull” in large letters next to it; two flames or blades rise out of the wolf’s back, that appear to be behind the wolf, a detail not realized in the final piece. It’s also possible that he drew the wolf over an existing drawing, as he sometimes did. The pair of bookends are general, with little detail; the woman kneels and holds a rounded flat shape; the man sits cross-legged with an arm resting on his knee. In the final sculpture the man’s arm is resting on the opposite knee than what was drawn in the sketch. He also looks older than the young woman. In the finished work, the woman is kneeling, holding a baby in a cradleboard, upright on one end, facing the sun.[XI]Rick Stewart, Charles M. Russell, Sculptor (New York: Amon Carter Museum, 1994), 216–25, the Indians depicted in the sculptural bookends were of the Gros Ventre tribe, sculptures cast in 1916.
In another drawing from the Flood Collection, Russell sketches out the internal armature for a sculptural figure that shows the internal supports meant for the legs. To see an example of an actual armature structure in a small wax and plaster sculpture, we can look to a radiograph of Russell’s self-portrait, Charlie Himself; the internal wires are much like those seen in the Flood sketch.[XII]Stewart, Charles M. Russell, Sculptor, figure 2-44, radiograph of Charlie Himself, 68; sketch of figure with leg armature drawn, 975-12-0782_01_600, Flood Collection.
Use of Models
As part of his practice, Russell sketched from life, photographs, imagination, and models. He used live human models, hired, not hired, friends, his wife, himself, photographs, and tiny figures he sculpted from wax, clay, and modeling compound.
Russell used his sculpted small models when trying to get the light right in a composition. He liked to paint scenes with dramatic light, either sunset or sunrise, to provide visual drama to the story he was trying to convey. To simulate these conditions, he would set up a small vignette either inside with an electric lightbulb suspended above the scene at various angles or in the outdoors to capture how the sun would cast light across his figures.
Russell’s use of small models was not unusual, but what was unique was that he created the figures himself. In so doing, he was able to understand these objects of human and animal forms from the inside out, giving him a visceral understanding of what he would later represent in drawing, painting, or sculpture. Russell criticized artists that relied too heavily on models for being tied to something so artificial and not looking closely at the actual thing they were trying to depict. Russell said, “most of those men work from modles and with out them they are lost.” [XIII]Note between Russell and De Yong, 975-12-0553_02_600, Flood Collection. Although Russell used models, too, he relied heavily on sketches from life when it came to animals, such as cows, horses, and deer, as seen in numerous Flood Collection sketches. It seems that when Russell drew a horse or a cow, it was more portrait than stock image. Russell wrote about the successful painter illustrator Howard Pyle and his followers, saying that “none of Pyle’s men can draw a horse.” “I don’t believe they look at a horse.”[XIV]Note between Russell and De Yong, 975-12-0091b_01_600, Flood Collection. Seemingly to prove his point, Russell drew a cartoon-like imitations of a painting by one of Howard Pyle’s students—N. C. Wyeth. Russell’s sketch appears to mock Wyeth’s The Wild Spectacular Race for Dinner. The drawing depicts a frenzied horse with nostrils flared, eyes wide in terror, and legs dramatically foreshortened.[XV]975-12-0091a_02_600, Flood Collection. Russell’s sketch may be responding to N. C. Wyeth’s painting entitled The Wild, Spectacular Race for Dinner (1905), published in Scribner Magazine 39, no. … Continue reading Russell’s practice of sculpting his own figures gave him an advantage, making him intimately aware of the figure in three dimensions, but he also had the advantage of living with his subject matter. As a cowboy, he watched cattle and horses for days on end; he used the tack, the ropes. He knew how cowboys rode, how they adjusted their saddle straps to get proper leverage and position when roping. He had firsthand knowledge of all of these and many more instances of cowboy life. He had seen and watched animals and responded to a whole host of scenarios that someone who was just visiting had no way of knowing fully. This lack of experience would produce subtle and not so subtle factual errors in their depictions of the West.
Conventional Drawing Techniques
In looking at Russell’s sketches and finished paintings, it is evident that he routinely employed conventional drawing techniques, including linear perspective, methods of transfer, and proportion, some of which date back to Leonardo da Vinci and beyond. These concepts were routinely taught in art schools. Since Russell wasn’t professionally trained, how could he have learned and incorporated such ideas? It is well documented that Russell had an extensive library, and he might have read an instructional book. More likely, another artist demonstrated these techniques to him; however he got the information, he employed it with regularity and skill. The Flood Collection contains examples of Russell employing linear perspective, a type of illusion that creates depth on a flat surface. In this system, all parallel lines converge into a single vanishing point on the composition’s horizon line. Russell created an illusion of depth in his sketch of a rider facing an open archway; the drawing includes a vanishing point at the horizon line, and all objects in the scene were drawn in direct relation to the chosen horizon. In addition, other drawings in Russell’s various sketch books also show examples of liner perspective and proportion.[XVI]Charles Russell sketch book, TU2009.39.6, Charles M. Russell Research Collection (Britzman), ca. 1911, Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The Flood Collection provides many examples of Russell’s using a simple transfer technique, especially when he was constructing many of his illustrated letters. Other sources provide an example of where Russell used this technique in a larger finished watercolor painting. The Flood Collection includes several preliminary drawings recognizable as images in known illustrated letters. Russell’s technique was basic but effective: once he was satisfied with a drawing he intended to transfer, he would turn it over and using a soft pencil to cover the sheet with a layer of graphite. He would then place the drawing face up on top of a sheet of blank paper and trace the outlines of the original drawing, transferring the original drawing to the clean sheet below. In this way, Russell could work out his mistakes on scrap paper and then, when satisfied with his drawing, transfer it to good quality paper.
In a letter Russell illustrated and wrote to his friend Frank Linderman in 1914, he started with a sketch of a seated Indian man smoking a pipe, then transferred the sketch to his personal stationary, adding several animal figures, and finished the image with ink and watercolor. Russell also used this technique for larger paintings, recently the preliminary sketch was found for the watercolor painting, York. The finished painting measured 18 1 4ʺ × 25ʺ, and its preliminary sketch was even larger.[XVII]975-12-0489_01_600, Flood Collection; Russell’s sketch for the illustrated letter he wrote to Frank Linderman, January–February 1914, owned by Van Kirke and Helen Nelson, Trails End Collection; … Continue reading Such works for large pieces are often lost, due in part to their intermediate nature, their size, the typically poor-quality paper used, and their utilitarian nature—once they had served their purpose of transferring an image, they were no longer valued and often would be lost or discarded. In this case, the sketch had been folded and was quite fragile from tears and losses, mostly along the fold lines. Poor-quality paper often breaks along folds.
Russell also used proportion in his drawings and paintings. Proportions are the relationships, or ratios, between the heights, widths and depths of a subject. One of Russell’s sketch books dated 1911–12 as well as the Flood Collection has many examples of Russell carefully marking off drawings to ensure that his figures were drawn in proper proportion. [XVIII]Charles Russell sketchbook, 1911–1912, TU2009.39.6, Charles M. Russell Research Collection (Britzman), Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, Oklahoma. In one such example in the Flood Collection, Russell sketched a buffalo’s outline, including short dashes to mark the top of the buffalo hump, top of the head, chin, bottom of the animal’s beard, and its underbelly.[XIX]Both examples show how Russell was marking proportion, 975-12-0653_01_600, 975-12-0737_02_600, Flood Collection., . Russell used this method of making small dashes or tick marks to keep track of the proper proportion of a person or animal. The marks helped him maintain his desired scale within his compositions. He penciled tick marks to map out the human head, following a formula for proportion dating back to the fifteenth century. The marks measure the space between the nose and the chin, the lips, the eyes, and the brow. By making these marks, he was able to map out where certain parts of the anatomy should be in relation to other parts of the composition to remain in correct scale or proportion.
As Russell’s only student, De Yong offers the best view into Russell’s teaching style. De Yong’s unpublished memoir and the notes between Russell and De Yong provide insight into Russell’s tone and temperament. Seeing what Russell thought important enough to share with De Yong is as telling about Russell as it is about De Yong. The Flood Collection makes it clear that Russell had a lot to share. The notes contain constructive direction, sometimes criticism, and even fewer examples of praise. Russell gave regular and practical direction; he talked about colors to use, the order of color application to fix a certain issue, and the use of molds for sculpture, and he critiqued and gave direction to address the problems he saw. It has been widely shared that Russell didn’t care to write and found it a laborious task, but the Flood notes range from cryptic to chatty. Some of the longer notes discuss other artists and what Russell felt were their shortcomings or even how he felt about them personally.
Russell shared his feelings about a painting’s composition, instructing, “I think its better to work all over your picture not finish one figer an then another it rests you.” Interestingly, De Yong wrote in his unpublished memoir about Russell’s use and philosophy of color, that color was paramount in Russell’s mind: “color, as a study, was never a part of his conversation and yet he was constantly pre-occupied with it.” From a practical standpoint he advised De Yong to be careful with Prussian blue: “its a dangerous color, once you get it on your palette and mixed in with your other colors you’ll have a hard time getting it out! A remark that bespoke many times repeated frustrations of his own.”[XX]Russell’s note to De Yong on the order of painting a composition, 975-12-0527_01_600. The following two notes are from Joe De Yong research notes and describe Russell’s preoccupation with color … Continue reading
Russell also advised De Yong directly about his sculpture, offering instruction on how to correct a color problem. Then he went on to say what solvent to use and how to finish the work. He wrote, “to[o] much red, [use] yellow ocher little over vandike [brown] yu use thin turp [turpentine] benzine then the hole thing is waxed.” In another instance, regarding a sculpture, Russell specifically advised De Yong, “I would make him on the stand . . . not with wire Tomorrow I’ll help you, we[’]ll try a plaster of paris base. . . . Let it dry all night.”[XXI] Instruction and direction on a particular sculpture, 975-12-0642_02_600, Flood Collection.
Russell not only gave direction; he also offered praise. He wrote to De Yong, “The crees looked good they looked like the real thing.”[XXII]Russell’s note to De Yong praising his work, 975-12-0642_01_600, Flood Collection. It seems for Russell, if something looked like the real thing, there was no higher praise.
Other Artists and Influence
A common belief about Russell was that he was entirely self-taught and created without influence from anything or anyone else. While it’s true Russell didn’t have a formal arts education, he did have other artists as friends and informal mentors, he went to galleries and museums to view other artists’ works, and he kept an extensive library. The notes between De Yong and Russell make clear that Russell was paying close attention to other artists’ work and thinking critically about them. De Yong writes that Russell noticed the “faults and problems of other artists.”[XXIII]Joe De Yong research notes reflecting on Russell’s demeanor, 975-12-0456_206, Flood Collection. The Flood Collection contains notes where Russell shared his feelings about how things should be portrayed, and his opinion on other established artists, such as Frederic Remington, Philip Goodwin, Edgar Paxson, Harvey Dunn, W. Herbert Dunton, Joe Scheuerle, N. C. Wyeth, Howard Pyle, and George Catlin.[XXIV]Remington: Frederic Remington is referred to several times in the Russell and De Yong’s shared notes, 975-12-0105a_01_600; 975-12-0106_02_600; 975-12-0525_01_600, Flood Collection. Goodwin: … Continue reading
Authenticity was important to Russell; when he didn’t feel something was real, he didn’t think much of it. Russell related a story to De Yong about his good friend and well-known naturalist painter, Philip Goodwin, “Goodwin paints a good horse one of the magazines told him he didn’t get the caricter in his horse that [Harvey] Dunn did.”[XXV]975-12-0091b_02_600, Flood Collection. It’s likely Russell is referring to Harvey Dunn, a Howard Pyle educated artist and illustrator that often painted the American West. In a later note, Russell discusses Paxson, Dunton, and Dunn. It appears that he’s referring to Dunn when he writes, “hes a funny fellow. . . . He talks cow to the Publishers, it dont do much good people think dunn knows the west what can you expect.”[XXVI] Russell wrote further about Harvey Dunn, 975-12-0099a_02_600, Flood Collection. Russell was very aware of artists of the West, including the famous George Catlin, who died when Russell was eight years old. Russell asks De Yong if he’s seen Catlin’s books. In the next line, he writes “Wimar,” then offers to go get the books so De Yong can see them. Wimar (Karl Ferdinand Wimar, also known as Charles or Carl Wimar) was a German-born artist who painted scenes of the West, including a mural in the rotunda of the Saint Louis Courthouse in 1861. Since Russell grew up in Saint Louis, it is reasonable to assume he saw Wimar’s work. Next Russell writes that he thinks he (presumably Catlin or Wimar) is a poor artist. It’s not clear why Russell didn’t care for Catlin or Wimar’s work; he may have meant someone else.[XXVII]Russell wrote a note about George Caitlin and Karl F. Wimar, 975-12-0643_02_600, Flood Collection. Russell writes quite a long note to De Yong about fellow Montana artist Edgar Paxson, in which he asks De Yong if he has seen Paxson’s courthouse murals in Missoula: “some of its good he don’t look at things he has Flatheads with travoys and I [don’t] think they ever used them.” [XXVIII]Russell writes about Paxson’s work, 975-12-0099a_01_600; 975-12-0099a_2_600, Flood Collection. On the other side of the sheet, Russell gives him a compliment, “his coler [color] is good,” then notes, “his cows have the same nose.” On the same piece of paper he tells De Yong, “most of Duntons work I like.”[XXIX]Russell writes about Dunton, most likely Herbert Dunton, 975-12-0099a_02_600, Flood Collection. He is likely referring to W. Herbert Dunton, a fellow artist who lived and worked in Montana, known for his painting of cowboys—he doesn’t elaborate. Russell responded to Remington’s work but noted where he felt Remington made mistakes, Russell sketched an example of a figure in one of Remington’s compositions, a quiver strapped across an Indian’s back, writing: “= wrong,” then drew what Russell felt was the correct placement.[XXX]Russell draws out Remington’s “mistake” along with what Russell feels is correct, 975-12-0106_02_600, Flood Collection. In another note he tells De Yong that “Remington was a good artist but made lots of mistakes. He knew nothing about a rope.”[XXXI]Russell writes about Remington’s mistakes, 975-12-0105a_01_600, Flood Collection. And in another he remarks, “his pictures show he didn’t know cows he knew soldiers but made his cow men ride the same. [XXXII]The context and content imply that Russell was referring to Frederick Remington. 975-12-0536_01_600, Flood Collection.
Despite thinking that Pyle’s students couldn’t draw a horse properly, he apparently valued Pyle’s work because at least three magazine reproductions of Pyle’s paintings were in the Flood Collection, two Civil War–themed paintings and one of a Spanish dancer, all from Harper’s magazines dating from 1909. The two Civil War–themed works are entitled Sherman’s First Meeting with Rowand and The Midnight Court Martial.[XXXIII]The illustration Sheridan’s First Interview with Rowand was published in Harper’s Monthly, June 1909, for a story by William Gilmore Beymer, 975-12-0543_02_600; the illustration Midnight Court … Continue reading The fact that Russell still had the pages when De Yong joined Russell’s studio in 1916 seems to indicate that Russell valued Pyle’s work enough to keep them around for seven years.
Fellow artist John Clymer related, “Russell didn’t paint outside until he started painting with [Philip] Goodwin.” Before that, there had been “little atmosphere in his work.” His palette reflected exactly the colors he recalled seeing: “brown leaves were brown, blue skies were blue, red coats were red. Then all of a sudden you started seeing air in his paintings and distance. [XXXIV]Peter Hassrick, “Goodwin & Russell: Friends through Their Art,” in Charlie Russell and Friends (Western Passages), ed. Thomas Brent Smith (Denver, CO: Petrie Institute of Western Art, Denver … Continue reading Russell’s artistic work, especially painting, changed dramatically after his 1904 visit to New York City. Other artists introduced him to new techniques and materials. It’s not certain if Philip Goodwin met Russell in 1904 but he did spend time painting with Russell in 1907 and 1910. The resulting paintings were as Clymer describes—full of atmosphere. By the end of his life Russell was using a wide array of color in his paintings. The paints, oil, and watercolors Russell left behind in his studio offer a dizzyingly wide range of color (see Table 1).
Russell left behind numerous artists’ materials and tools in his studio, along with unfinished works in various stages of completion. These materials, along with the Flood Collection, which includes lists of materials, sources, and brands, give insight into Russell’s preferences and suppliers. De Yong wrote that Russell found his favored oil paints during a trip to London in 1914, when “he was . . . introduced to Mussini colors.” They were considered to be exceptionally pure resin-oil colors developed in Italy and manufactured in Germany. Russell also used Rembrandt brand oil paints “whenever he could not get Mussini.”[XXXV]Joe De Yong’s research notes discussing Russell’s oil paint brands, 975-12-436 to 439, Flood Collection. In the Flood Collection notes, Russell tells De Yong that the best paint, Mussini resin-oil paints, is made in Germany and that he will give him the address in New York where he can get some.[XXXVI]Joe De Yong’s notes on color include a reference to the NYC art supplier, 975-12-0797_01_600; “Mussini dyes, I will give you an ada in New York,” Flood Collection. Some sixty-five tubes of Mussini resin-oil paints were found in Russell’s extant studio materials—a good indication that he favored the brand!
The Flood Collection details Russell’s artistic practices, especially in the method and methodology of sculptures, even listing the brands of modeling clay and plaster and tips on how to properly use a glue mold. Russell used beeswax, plaster of paris, Plastiline, and other modeling clays to create his sculptures, all of which were discussed in his notes with De Yong. [XXXVII]Russell refers to using Plastiline and plaster of paris, 975-12-0518_02_600 and 975-12-0642_02_600, Flood Collection. Diamond brand beeswax was mentioned in a letter Russell wrote to De Yong September 2, 1913, 8.04.5, Buffalo Bill Center for the West. He left behind sculpted figures in different states of finish, along with the tools and products he used to make them. Dried plaster on a spoon and an old china cup with dried plaster residue were used to mix up plaster before placing it into a mold, giving the impression of someone who had stepped out for just a moment and would return shortly.
Nancy Russell is responsible for saving much of the contents of Russell’s art studio, but the Flood Collection, made up of Joe De Yong’s notes and sketches traded back and forth as well as De Yong’s unfinished memoir, furnishes invaluable information and insight into the working practices of one of the most important and influential artists working in America in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Russell is remembered for his humor and storytelling ability in a variety of mediums. His humor, observation, and imagination in his depictions of the West remains as accessible and popular today as when they were first produced. The Flood Collection sheds light on the artist, providing the rarest of opportunities to view the past, giving the reader a seat at the table alongside artist and pupil. The notes and sketches illustrate the work ethic, beliefs, and lessons Russell felt were important to pass along to his student. Russell shared the knowledge he gained by experience and guided De Yong in his art practice. Russell studied other artists and distilled their techniques for De Yong, telling him where he thought they got it right and where they didn’t. Russell valued authenticity; he seemed impatient with those who came to the American West for periods then returned to their studios back east to paint the scenes they had collected.
The written communication between the two men provides invaluable insight into the relationship between them, as well as Russell’s philosophy, his influences, and his teaching style. De Yong honed his artistic skill not only with Russell as his guide, but also after Russell’s death, when De Yong took the images and stories Russell shared with him and became a creative director in the film industry, making westerns.[XXXVIII]Mark White, “I Heap Savvy You”: Charles M. Russell, Joe De Yong, and the Pictorial Value of Hand-Talk (Denver: Petrie Institute of Western American Art, Denver Art Museum, 2010), 53–55. It can’t be stressed enough how both these men influenced the imagery of what the public came to see as the Western American experience, both historical and contemporary.
Appendix: Sketches for Finished Works
Scores of sketches from the Flood Collection were preliminary drawings for later works in oil, watercolor, and sculptures, providing further insight into Russell’s artistic processes. The following are some of the works identified.
Lewis & Clarke on the Lower Columbia  975-12-0581_01_600; Meat for the Wagons, 975-12-0716_01_600 and/or _02; Christmas Dinner for the Men on the Trail  or Where Tracks Spell Meat , 975-12-0598_01_600 and 975-12-0558B_01_600; Watching for the Smoke Signal , 975-12-0549_01_600; Sun Worship in Montana  975-12-519; First Wagon Trail  975-12-607; When Wagon Trails Were Dim  975-12-748; When White Men Turn Red  975-12-520; The Medicine Man  975-12-0728_01_600; Lewis and Clark Meeting Indians at Ross’ Hole  975-12-565_01_600, 975-12-565_02_600, 975-12-606_01_600; Navajo Tracker  975-12-0728_02_600; The Upper Missouri in 1840  975-12-0104B_04_600 and sculpture, one page includes sketches for The Last Laugh , and two bookends intitled, Indian man and Indian woman [ca. 1914] 975-12-0154A_09_600; and The Scalp Dancer .
|↑I||“On Jan. 3, 1916, It was my good fortune to have commenced working in Charlie Russell’s studio, and from that day on, for the next ten years.” Joe De Yong research notes, 975-12-0456_94, Charles M. Russell and Joe De Yong Research Materials from Richard J. Flood II, C.M. Russell Museum, Great Falls, Montana (hereafter Flood Collection).|
|↑II||De Yong describing Russell’s art studio, Joe De Yong research notes, 975-12-0456_55, Flood Collection.|
|↑III||975-12-0565_02_600; 975-12-0565_01_600; 975-12-0606_01_600, Flood Collection. These three sketches appear related to the Montana State House mural Russell completed in 1912.|
|↑IV||Illustration of armor through history, C.M. Russell Museum, Studio Collection.|
|↑V||Part of the Flood Collection went to the C.M. Russell Museum in 1975; another portion went to the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in 1980.|
|↑VI||De Yong describes Russell’s power of concentration while drawing, Joe De Yong research notes, 975-12-1012, Flood Collection.|
|↑VII||De Yong describing how Russell would often start his day with sketching, Joe De Yong research notes, 975-12-429, Flood Collection.|
|↑VIII||Christmas Dinner for Men on the Trail , Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, 1961.100, transparent and opaque watercolor on paper; Where Tracks Spell Meat , Gilcrease Museum of Art, Tulsa, Oklahoma, 01.914, oil paint on canvas.|
|↑IX||Three sketches that appear related to Christmas Dinner for Men on the Trail and Where Tracks Spell Meat, 975-12-0598_01_600, 975-12-0598B_01_600, 975-12-0795_01_600, Flood Collection.|
|↑X||All three sculptures, The Last Laugh, Indian Family [Indian Man], and [Indian Woman], are owned by the Amon Carter Museum, accession nos. 1961.113, 1961.122, 1961.123, bronze.|
|↑XI||Rick Stewart, Charles M. Russell, Sculptor (New York: Amon Carter Museum, 1994), 216–25, the Indians depicted in the sculptural bookends were of the Gros Ventre tribe, sculptures cast in 1916.|
|↑XII||Stewart, Charles M. Russell, Sculptor, figure 2-44, radiograph of Charlie Himself, 68; sketch of figure with leg armature drawn, 975-12-0782_01_600, Flood Collection.|
|↑XIII||Note between Russell and De Yong, 975-12-0553_02_600, Flood Collection.|
|↑XIV||Note between Russell and De Yong, 975-12-0091b_01_600, Flood Collection.|
|↑XV||975-12-0091a_02_600, Flood Collection. Russell’s sketch may be responding to N. C. Wyeth’s painting entitled The Wild, Spectacular Race for Dinner (1905), published in Scribner Magazine 39, no. 3 (1906).|
|↑XVI||Charles Russell sketch book, TU2009.39.6, Charles M. Russell Research Collection (Britzman), ca. 1911, Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, Oklahoma.|
|↑XVII||975-12-0489_01_600, Flood Collection; Russell’s sketch for the illustrated letter he wrote to Frank Linderman, January–February 1914, owned by Van Kirke and Helen Nelson, Trails End Collection; preliminary sketch used for York, graphite, National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, acc#; York, graphite, watercolor, Montana Historical Society, X1909.01.01.|
|↑XVIII||Charles Russell sketchbook, 1911–1912, TU2009.39.6, Charles M. Russell Research Collection (Britzman), Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, Oklahoma.|
|↑XIX||Both examples show how Russell was marking proportion, 975-12-0653_01_600, 975-12-0737_02_600, Flood Collection., .|
|↑XX||Russell’s note to De Yong on the order of painting a composition, 975-12-0527_01_600. The following two notes are from Joe De Yong research notes and describe Russell’s preoccupation with color and his warning about Prussian blue, 975-12-456329; Joe De Yong, 975-12-436, Flood Collection.|
|↑XXI||Instruction and direction on a particular sculpture, 975-12-0642_02_600, Flood Collection.|
|↑XXII||Russell’s note to De Yong praising his work, 975-12-0642_01_600, Flood Collection.|
|↑XXIII||Joe De Yong research notes reflecting on Russell’s demeanor, 975-12-0456_206, Flood Collection.|
|↑XXIV||Remington: Frederic Remington is referred to several times in the Russell and De Yong’s shared notes, 975-12-0105a_01_600; 975-12-0106_02_600; 975-12-0525_01_600, Flood Collection. Goodwin: “Goodwin paints a good horse,” 975-12-0091b_02_600, Flood Collection. Paxson: Russell discusses the murals Edgar Paxson painted in the Missoula courthouse to De Yong, 975-12-0099a_01_600, 975-12-0099a_02_600, Flood Collection. Dunn: 975-12-0091b_02_600, 975-12-0099a_02_600, Flood Collection. Dunton: Russell refers to Dunton, likely Herbert Dunton, 975-12-0099a_02_600, Flood Collection. Scheuerle: The name and address of Joe Scheuerle is written, but it’s not entirely legible, and the text written around the name doesn’t seem related. Scheuerle was born in Vienna and worked and lived in Montana. It is documented that he was a friend of Russell (Montana Historical Society), 975-12-0518_01_600, Flood Collection. Wyeth: Russell mentions “Wiath,” then writes, “lots of good ones,” 975-12-0091b_02_600, Flood Collection. Pyle: Russell writes, “none of Piles men can draw a horse,” 975-12-0091b_02_600, Flood Collection. Catlin: Russell asks De Yong if he’s ever seen Catlin’s books, 975-12-0643_02_600, Flood Collection.|
|↑XXV||975-12-0091b_02_600, Flood Collection. It’s likely Russell is referring to Harvey Dunn, a Howard Pyle educated artist and illustrator that often painted the American West.|
|↑XXVI||Russell wrote further about Harvey Dunn, 975-12-0099a_02_600, Flood Collection.|
|↑XXVII||Russell wrote a note about George Caitlin and Karl F. Wimar, 975-12-0643_02_600, Flood Collection.|
|↑XXVIII||Russell writes about Paxson’s work, 975-12-0099a_01_600; 975-12-0099a_2_600, Flood Collection.|
|↑XXIX||Russell writes about Dunton, most likely Herbert Dunton, 975-12-0099a_02_600, Flood Collection.|
|↑XXX||Russell draws out Remington’s “mistake” along with what Russell feels is correct, 975-12-0106_02_600, Flood Collection.|
|↑XXXI||Russell writes about Remington’s mistakes, 975-12-0105a_01_600, Flood Collection.|
|↑XXXII||The context and content imply that Russell was referring to Frederick Remington. 975-12-0536_01_600, Flood Collection.|
|↑XXXIII||The illustration Sheridan’s First Interview with Rowand was published in Harper’s Monthly, June 1909, for a story by William Gilmore Beymer, 975-12-0543_02_600; the illustration Midnight Court Martial was also for a story by W. G. Beymer, published in Harper’s Monthly, September 1909, 975-12-0621_02_600, Flood Collection.|
|↑XXXIV||Peter Hassrick, “Goodwin & Russell: Friends through Their Art,” in Charlie Russell and Friends (Western Passages), ed. Thomas Brent Smith (Denver, CO: Petrie Institute of Western Art, Denver Art Museum, 2010), 41.|
|↑XXXV||Joe De Yong’s research notes discussing Russell’s oil paint brands, 975-12-436 to 439, Flood Collection.|
|↑XXXVI||Joe De Yong’s notes on color include a reference to the NYC art supplier, 975-12-0797_01_600; “Mussini dyes, I will give you an ada in New York,” Flood Collection.|
|↑XXXVII||Russell refers to using Plastiline and plaster of paris, 975-12-0518_02_600 and 975-12-0642_02_600, Flood Collection.|
|↑XXXVIII||Mark White, “I Heap Savvy You”: Charles M. Russell, Joe De Yong, and the Pictorial Value of Hand-Talk (Denver: Petrie Institute of Western American Art, Denver Art Museum, 2010), 53–55.|