Charles M. Russell (1864–1926)
Bronco Busting. Driving In. Cow Puncher., ca. 1889
Oil on canvas
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, Amon G. Carter Collection
This early, somewhat monochromatic painting depicts three separate subjects depicting the life of an open-range cowboy that served as illustrations for a book titled Studies in Western Life, which appeared in 1890. As historian Brian Dippie has noted, the three scenes in the painting are almost certainly derived from illustrations done by Frederic Remington for Century magazine in the same period. While Russell had little to learn from Remington about cowboys, he looked on Remington’s work as a source of inspiration for artistic ideas, especially composition. In the book, Russell’s illustrations were accompanied by captions written by Montana pioneer Granville Stuart, who was not above dealing in some mythmaking himself when he described the life of a cowboy in glowing terms. However, another observer in the same period thought otherwise, terming it “an endless round of long, wearisome rides, with many a fall, thirst, hunger, and extremes of heat and cold. It means weeks spent on the ground without any shelter, and months in lonesome dugouts, far from the ranch, and far from all the little comforts of body and mind that make life agreeable.”