Charles Marion Russell (American, 1864-1926) The Battle between the Blackfeet and the Piegans, 1897 14 3/4 x 21 1/4in
Lot 252
Charles Marion Russell
(American, 1864-1926)
The Battle between the Blackfeet and the Piegans, 1897 14 3/4 x 21 1/4in
Sold for US$ 276,000 inc. premium

Lot Details
Charles Marion Russell (American, 1864-1926)
The Battle between the Blackfeet and the Piegans, 1897
signed, dated and inscribed with artist's skull device 'CM Russell 1897' (lower left)
watercolor, gouache and pencil on paper
14 3/4 x 21 1/4in


  • Provenance:
    J.N. Bartfield, New York, New York by 1961
    Gerald P. Peters Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico
    Acquired by the present owner from the above, 1985

    Centennial Year - 1864-1964, C.M. Russell Gallery, Great Falls, Montana, no. 23, illustrated

    Charles M. Russell Centennial Exhibition 1864-1964, Hammer Galleries, New York, Summer 1964, no. 14, illustrated

    Whitney Gallery of Western Art, Cody, Wyoming, (on extended loan from 1968-1970)

    Antiques, December 1961, pg. 510, illustrated

    A Bibliography of the Published Works of Charles M. Russell, K. Yost and F.G. Renner, Lincoln, Nebraska, 1971, pg. 280

    Charles Marion Russell was one of the preeminent western artists of the nineteenth century. Similar to other masters of the genre, such as Frederic Remington, Alfred Jacob Miller and Joseph Henry Sharp, Russell's success stemmed from his depictions of the American West, life on the American Frontier and the American Indian. The latter subject was particularly well received, and has lost none of its importance in contemporary viewing. Russell had a direct and substantial connection with his American Indian subjects and through this connection his works have an authentic ability to communicate the nature of the American Indian.

    The cowboy imagery of many of Russell’s paintings, as well as the animal subjects that dominate his sculptural works, still has tremendous resonance in today’s market. Russell's stature in the market is due to the continued presence of a cowboy tradition in parts of the west, a growing sporting community, and an interest in native wildlife. Uniquely, the interest in Native Americans, primarily authentic interacting tribes completely removed from Western influences, has an ethnographic bent to it. Along with the fierceness of the figures and the compositional movement of the battle, there is nostalgia to this scene, with all of the figures in traditional garb and wielding traditional weapons. It is as if Russell was painting a scene, which would never be repeated again and should be lamented, not only for it having occurred, but also for the fact that it would never occur again. This accurately speaks to the artist’s true admiration for the subjects he chose to paint.

    After working for sometime as a cowboy himself, Russell went on to travel and live with many of the Northwestern Plains tribes. At the end of the 1880’s, Russell could be found among some of the Blackfoot Tribes of Montana and Southern Canada. The Blood, Piegans and Blackfeet are all part of the larger Blackfoot Nation, which was a dominant power on the plains until the late nineteenth century. Having spent a winter with the Blood in 1889, just seven years after the establishment of the Blood Reserve in 1882 and only five years after the great extermination of the buffalo reached this region and caused the starvation of 600 Piegans, Russell had direct exposure to the struggles of these peoples. By the middle of the 1890’s, Russell was quite an authority of the habits, attire and culture of many of the Native Plains tribes. It was only two years before the painting of this picture that the Blackfeet sold much of their land to the U.S. government in what would become Glacier National Park.

    The Blackfoot Nation warred with other major Native American groups, including the Sioux, the Crow and the Northern Shoshone. They also fought internally between different bands. In this depiction of a Battle between the Blackfeet and the Piegans, Russell draws on his knowledge to create a scene, which impresses with its technical quality, frightens with its ferocity, and conveys the deep respect and admiration he had for these noble warriors. He was very much a witness of the loss of such a lifestyle and culture, as it was the same cowboy life he had lead years earlier which either directly or indirectly lead to the extermination of many of the Native American tribes and certainly the elimination of the greater Plains Indians way of life.

Saleroom notices

  • Medium line should read: watercolor and pencil on paper on board
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