Charles M. Russell (1864–1926)
The Wolfer's Camp, 1906
Transparent and opaque watercolor over graphite on paperboard
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, Amon G. Carter Collection
This watercolor appeared as an illustration in Leslie’s Weekly in December 1906. It depicts a Blackfoot man and his family bargaining with two wolf hunters over the carcass of a freshly killed pronghorn. It is not clear who is receiving the game, but the Indian man appears to be making the sign for “done.” He wears a typical Blackfoot fur hat and blanket coat with blanket cloth leggings, and he has wrapped himself in a green Hudson’s Bay Company blanket. His wife, standing behind him with their child, wears a Pendleton blanket and trade cloth leggings. The child—probably a boy—wraps himself securely against the biting cold with a capote (hooded coat) made from another Hudson’s Bay Company blanket. His leggings, as well as those of his father, show beadwork decoration. The white man standing with his back to the roaring campfire is clearly a cowboy who has turned his hand to winter work as a wolf hunter. In those days Montana had a healthy bounty on wolves, and a good hunter could turn a very tidy profit from wolf skins. The cowboy wears a Montana peak hat with a short brim, and he sports an ivory-handled six-shooter in a Mexican loop holster. His tall stovepipe-top boots are adorned with dropshank-type spurs. Behind him, rows of bloody wolf pelts can be seen hanging from the top of a tent. Bannock, or flat bread, can be seen baking in a long-handled pan tipped up to the roaring campfire. A saddle hangs from a tree, and another saddle and cross-frame pack saddle lie in the foreground. Russell has beautifully evoked the cold, wintry light in this scene through the use of opaque washes and cool colors: pale lemon yellows, dull earth reds, icy blues, and wispy swirls of white all combine to convey the feeling of the stiff, biting cold of a Montana winter’s day.