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  • Charles Marion Russell
    Mar 19, 1864 - Oct 24, 1926
  • Laugh Kills Lonesome - Charles Russell was the "other" artist (besides Frederic Remington) who chronicled life in the Wild West. Unlike Remington, Russell settled permanently in the west (Montana) and wholeheartedly embraced everything life there had to offer. He was a "real" cowboy, lived with a mountain man and was an adopted brother of the Blackfoot tribe. His oils, watercolors and bronzes reflect an intimate knowledge of his subjects, and no one was more surprised than he when they began fetching high prices.
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Laugh Kills Lonesome
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  • Laugh Kills Lonesome

  • Charles Marion Russell
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  • 1925
    Oil on Canvas
    Montana Historical Society MacKay Collection, Helena, MT.

    It’s no secret that we here at The Jade Sphinx love the work of Charles Marion Russell (1864-1926), the cowboy artist. The boyish Russell went West in his early youth, and worked as a cowboy, watching the waning days of the American West with an artist’s eye. He didn't seem to be very effective in the saddle, but it was all he wanted and he was happy.

    Charlie not only loved life, he loved his life. He wanted to be a cowboy in his earliest boyhood, and went West as soon a he had the chance.

    Charlie’s vision of the West was a boyish one, full of endless prairies and freedom. His was an eternal boyhood – both promise and nostalgia at the same time. The West (and his boyhood) became to him a Lost Eden which he missed and to which he could never return.

    The sense of loss, though, was not a bitter nor astringent one. In fact, it grew into some of a sweet wistfulness. Charlie was too happy a man – too content with life and his place in it – to allow loss to play to great a part. It’s a lesson we can all take from this maddeningly simple yet complex man. The more I read about Charlie, the more I think I know him, the more I feel some vital core essence of the man is slipping through my fingers.

    This week, we will look at three of Charlie’s pictures. (I only think of him as “Charlie,” it’s almost impossible to think of him under his full moniker.) They are not necessarily his best (nor most representative pictures), but they illustrate something of his philosophy, I think.

    Exhibit A: Laugh Kills Lonesome, painted in 1925 and now in the Mackay Collection in Helena, Montana. It was painted just a year before Charlie went to the Last Roundup, and if ever an artist painted an end-of-life farewell, it is this.

    Charlie paints the figures in a markedly sketchy manner: it’s not verisimilitude he is after, but mood. The sky and surrounding landscape are simply laid out in muted, cool colors. The moon shines brilliantly in the distance, and the stars seem almost heavenly, but they do no wash the picture with cool light – they are distant and fairly unobtainable.

    The realm warmth of the picture comes from the campfire, which brings a warm glow to the chuck wagon, a few simple tools, and the cowboys themselves. There is nothing of particularly high mark in their attitudes or actions; it is simply a group of men content after a hard life of labor, loving the outdoors, their lives, and one another. One of them smokes a contemplative cigarette, another pours the last of the coffee, and two of them share a game of cards.

    But the arresting figure is the man standing on the right, hat back, coat open, body receptive to capture the campfire’s warmth. Who is it but our old friend, Charlie Russell, the Cowboy Artist. We have seen in the past that Charlie was not averse to putting himself into his own work, and there he is, holding his lariat, smoking a cigarette, and perhaps looking at the fire die down as his own life draws to a close.

    Charlie was in ill health for the final years of his life, and he is evidently looking at his own past in this painting. But it is not a look of regret or of loss; if anything, it’s a look of satisfaction.

    Perhaps the truest nugget of the real Charlie Russell can be found in the picture’s title: Laugh Kills Lonesome.

    Why settle for a paper print when you can add sophistication to your rooms with a high quality 100% hand-painted oil painting on canvas at wholesale price? Order this beautiful oil painting today! that's a great way to impress friends, neighbors and clients alike.

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  • Hello Painting Mania,

    Not more than an hour ago my order from you arrived at my door step.
    I soon had the Charlie Russell painting “Laugh Kills Lonesome” unwrapped.

    There is only one word necessary to describe the work of art, BEAUTIFUL.
    I’m completely satisfied and wish to thank you for such wonderful art work.

    I will be taking it to my framer soon for mounting and framing.

    It will then a find a home in my granddaughter's new residence as a house warming gift for the lucky young couple! I’m sure she will love it for years to come.

    Thanks again for everything you have done to help me have a copy of this
    famous painting by Charles Russell.

    Best regards with deepest appreciation,

    Bill Dunn

Other paintings by Charles Marion Russell:

Meat's Not Meat Till It's in the Pan
Meat's Not Meat Till It's in the Pan
When Mules Wear Diamonds
When Mules Wear Diamonds
Exalted Ruler
Exalted Ruler
End of the Rope
End of the Rope
Charles Marion RussellCharles M. Russell - Montana's most famous artist, and, along with Frederic Remington, one of the two most famous artists ever to paint the West - was born in St. Louis, Missouri on March 19, 1864. He came to Montana in 1880, at the age of 16, just four years after Custer's fatal last stand at the Little Big Horn.

His first job in Montana was sheepherder - and he was terrible at it. "I'd lose the damn things as fast as they put 'em on the ranch," he said later. Fired from that job, he helped professional meat hunter, Jake Hoover, spending about two years learning about Indians, wildlife, and Montana's past.

In 1882 he went to work as a cowboy, working as night wrangler on cattle drives and round-ups. During the bitter cold winter of 1886-1887, Charlie was staying on the O.H. Ranch. In a reply to the owners of the ranch who asked about the condition of their herd, Charlie drew a sketch of a gaunt, starving cow surrounded by wolves, and titled it "Waiting for a Chinook" The sketch was reproduced in the Montana newspapers, and is still today one of Charlie's best-known pictures.

During his days on the range, Charlie always had a sketch pad and some brushes with him, and occasionally he tried to make his living as an artist. But he always went back to working as a cowboy, saying he'd "rather be a poor cow puncher than a poor artist." But in 1896 his situation turned around. He married a pretty young girl named Nancy Cooper, and as soon as she took over the business end of his art career, things began to look up. Within just a few years Nancy was charging collectors what Charlie always called "dead man's prices."

Charlie Russell died on October 24, 1926, of heart failure, and he was deeply mourned by the entire state of Montana. In Great Falls, city offices and schools were closed on the day of his funeral. His first roundup boss, Horace Brewster, told the newspaper, "He never swung a mean loop in his life, never done dirt to man or animal, in all the days he lived."