1888 Charles Russell Drawing

Value (2012) | $20,000 None

Whenever I see an item that's been attributed to the extraordinary American Western late-19th and early 20th century artist Charlie Russell, it usually comes with a really great story, too. So when did this first come into your family?

Late 1800s sometime. The story is that my great-great-uncle Phil Wynard was in Helena, Montana. And he got a job up in Alberta, Canada. He met two guys in a bar, and they asked him if they could come along with him. And these two guys in the bar were Charlie Russell and a guy named Stillwell. And he also found them a place to stay with a guy named Blunt. He had a cabin. As far as I could tell, neither Charlie nor Stillwell worked at all during that summer. They just hung around. But this Blunt that had the cabin they were staying in considered himself somewhat of an artist. He had some artist supplies that he gave to Charlie, and Charlie did some painting while he was hanging around. And when Russell and Wynard and Stillwell came across the border, there was a $20 tariff to bring the horses in. Wynard paid for their $20 tariff to come in. Okay, then after they'd been there, they left. Well, they left, they took his horse and saddle.

Oh geez.

So technically, they were horse thieves. He left behind some paintings and some sketches. And Wynard said, "Well, they got my horse, I'll take their paintings." And so that's wherethen it came on down through the family to me.

That's perfect. 1888 ended up being a very seminal year for Charlie Russell. And the Alberta trip was really important. He stayed with the Blackfeet tribe, and the branch was called The Bloods. And it was there where he really began his affinity and his strong feelings towards the Native Americans. This is a graphite drawing of the artist painting, and wonderful members of the Blackfeet tribe watching his process. This trip is written up in a lot of the Russell literature. So there's an extraordinary paper trail for this really interesting and, in fact, double-sided drawing.


We have this Native American portrait as well of an Indian chief. The good news is, it's a great story. The news that we have to work on is to absolutely positively determine that it's an original Russell drawing. To do that, it would have to be researched, and it would have to be looked at by the Russell scholars. If we find out that it's after Russell, it would be a drawing with decorative value, which would probably be a couple hundred dollars. But the story, the references, I think it's a very good departure for research to have the piece authenticated. I think when it is authenticated, it could have an insurance value of $20,000. Russell is an extraordinarily important and beloved American artist.

Appraisal Details

Colleene Fesko Works of Art
Boston, MA
Appraised value (2012)
$20,000 None
Rapid City, SD (July 14, 2012)

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