This is the weekend of Charlie Russell's birthday. Russell was born in St Louis Missouri on March 19th, 1864. Every year in Charlie’s adopted hometown of Great Falls Montana they have a celebration called Western Art Week to celebrate this event. All over town, you can find western art shows and sales as well as many other events celebrating the western lifestyle.
My wife Denice and I have found this for many years to be a great little getaway after a long winter up here on the northern range. Great Falls is only about a four-hour drive south for us so it's an easy trip that we have made many, many times.
Charlie Russell's art has always captivated me for as long as I can remember. The first painting of his I can recall seeing as a child was a painting called “When Blackfeet and Sioux meet” which depicted three mounted warriors in battle. The painting may have been the first of his that I saw but it certainly wouldn’t be the last. I became an instant fan at an early age and still to this day I can't seem to get enough of Russell's art and his story. What makes Russell's work stand out to me is that he gets it right. He knows his subjects immensely from the cowboys to the Native Americans. He knows the horse and the buffalo and paints his subjects truer than any artist I know of.
Also, the country that he painted is the country that I know and love – Montana and Southern Alberta!
Charlie spent a summer in 1888 in the Highwood River Valley just southwest of Calgary where I live. These mountains and hills and valleys that I admire daily are the same ones that he saw so many years ago.
So Charlie may be Montana’s most famous son, but we here in Alberta also like to lay a claim to him. So this weekend we plan to take another trip south to Charlie’s hometown to celebrate his birthday once again and take in all the sights and sounds of Western Art Week.