Charles M. Russell

The Life and Legend of America's Cowboy Artist

This first comprehensive biography of Charles M. Russell examines the colorful life and times of Montana’s famed Cowboy Artist. Born to an affluent St. Louis family in 1864, young Russell read thrilling tales of the West and filled sketchbooks with imagined frontier scenes. At sixteen he left home and headed west to become a cowboy. In Montana Territory he consorted with cowpunchers, Indians, preachers, saloon keepers, and prostitutes, while celebrating the waning American frontier’s glory days in some 4,000 paintings, watercolors, drawings, and sculptures. Before his death in 1926, Russell saw the world change dramatically, and the West he loved passed into legend. By then he was revered as one of the country’s ranking Western artist with works displayed in the finest galleries, his romantic vision of the Old West forever shaping our own.

Taliaferro reveals the man behind the myth in his multifaceted complexity: extraordinarily gifted, self-effacing, charming, mischievous, and playful, a friend to rough frontier denizens and Hollywood stars alike. The author also explores Russell’s controversial partnership with his fiery young wife, Nancy, whose ambition and business savvy helped establish Russell as one of America’s most popular artists.

“The author shines as he captures the context of Russell’s life…. Taliaferro separates the facts from the fiction of past writers and gives us Charlie with all his foibles. This may well be the definitive biography of Charles M. Russell.”
Cowboys and Indians
“John Taliaferro … is a passionate and thorough researcher who lets old Charlie’s personality shine through. His biography is one of the most enlightening and engaging I’ve read in a good while.”
Judyth Rigler
San Antonio Express-News
“This meticulously researched biography … covers Russell’s entire life, refutes the myths and lies, and contributes new insights…. The good, the bad and the ugly are all here, without prejudice.”
Austin American-Statesman
Charles M. Russell is John Taliaferro’s wonderfully engaging biography of a self-effacing icon who merely considered himself lucky to be in the right place at the right time.”
Chicago Tribune
“Whatever Russell’s status in art history – detractors debunk his work for sentimentalism; enthusiasts value its evocative panoramas – his companionable character is seamlessly restored by Taliaferro.”
“Charlie Russell fans will savor this work, how it places a tangible heart and soul behind his paintings. The legend of Charlie Russell was not wanting in grandeur, just accuracy, and the new biography completes the job in full color.”
Big Sky Journal
Thursday, January, 01, 1970