A Tight Dally and a Loose Latigo
Oil on canvas
30 1/4 x 48 1/4 in.
signed l.l.: C M Russell \ [skull] c [circled]
dated l.c.: 1920
Amon G. Carter Collection
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, Amon G. Carter Collection
Remington and RussellFebruary 25–May 24, 2015
This exhibition of paintings and sculptures selected from the Carter’s extensive collection offers visitors an opportunity to gain insight into the works of Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell, two of the greatest practitioners of the art of the American West.
Illustrator and painter Charles “Charlie” M. Russell was known for his ability to create authentic characters and scenes of the American West. Russell spent many years living and working in Montana, which inspired works like this painting.
This horizontally oriented artwork depicts what is thought to be one of Russell’s favorite memories of the cowboys he knew. This action-packed, daytime scene shows three cowboys on horseback in pursuit of stampeding cattle on the plains of Montana. On the left is a herd of brown and white cattle running away from the viewer; on the right, the three cowboys, facing the viewer. These cowboys are riding on a bank covered in greenish-yellow grass while the moving cattle are below in a dusty draw, a depression caused by once flowing water. Snow-capped mountains are off in the distance and white clouds fill the blue sky. Russell used crisper brushstrokes and included more details in the foreground; he used lighter colors and looser strokes in the background, which helps keep the focus on the action.
The cowboy closest to the viewer is in the heart of the commotion. His caramel-colored horse with its white markings is bucking—its head close to the ground and its hind leg flailing in the air. This movement throws the cowboy out of the saddle to the right and his hat off to the left. His right stirrup is empty, and it flies out to the side. The saddle no longer sits flat on the back of the horse. The cowboy is White with brown hair. He is wearing a red bandana tied around his neck, a white long-sleeve shirt, a belt, and brown pants. The cowboy’s left hand grips the horse’s reins, while his right hand still holds on to the cream-colored lasso that is looped around a cow’s horns on the left side of the painting.
The roped brown-and-white specked cow is the last in the pack and has his hind end to the viewer. His body is contorted so that his head looks to the left and only the profile of his face is visible. His eye is wide open and his tongue hangs out of his mouth; white drool flies in the air around him. His back legs remain on the ground while he rears up with his front legs, presumably from the pull of the lasso. The lasso trips another smaller cow, in between the roped cow and the cowboy’s hold. This smaller, brown cow is falling face first into the ground, his back side sticking straight up in the air. None of his hooves touch the ground.
The other two White cowhands appear smaller, are a little farther back in the composition, and flank the central cowboy. Both of them are on galloping horses, creating more commotion. The cowboys both hold lassos in their hands, their hats are still on their heads, and appear to be ready to throw their looped rope at the passing herd. The cows that pass them are less distinguishable, with only swirls of brown and white and a couple of horns identifiable.
The artist signed his name "CM Russell" in the bottom left corner.