Indian Family with Travois
Watercolor and graphite on paper
13 3/4 x 22 1/4 in.
l.l.signed and dated : C M Russell \ 1897 \ [skull]
Amon G. Carter Collection
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, Amon G. Carter Collection
Russell’s romantic portrayals of Indigenous life are well-known, but the Indigenous people that he knew and developed relationships with are often overlooked. Josephine Wright, a Blackfoot woman, featured prominently in Russell’s art. Prior to knowing the artist, Wright served for a time as a housekeeper in the home of Ben and Lela Roberts, two of Russell’s neighbors in Cascade, Montana. She shared this work with Nancy Cooper, whom Russell befriended in 1895 and subsequently married. When Charlie and Nancy moved to Great Falls in 1897, Wright joined them, taking on a position as their housekeeper.
In addition to her domestic responsibilities, Wright served as one of Russell’s models. She likely posed for this watercolor, which Russell executed the year of their move to Great Falls. Few details of Russell and Wright’s interactions in the studio survive, but their close working relationship raises questions about how she may have shaped the choices he made in his art and informed his knowledge of Blackfoot life and culture.
—Text taken from the Carter Handbook (2023)