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Charles M Russell: Photographing the Legend


Larry Len Peterson


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Almost as familiar as the images of the American West he painted and sculpted is the figure of Charles M. Russell himself. Standing or mounted, in boots and wide-brimmed hat, sash knotted at his waist, gaze steady under a hank of unruly hair: he is the one and only “Cowboy Artist.” What is not so well known is the story that unfolds in the myriad photographs of Russell, pictures that document a remarkable life while also reflecting the evolution of photography and the depiction of the American West at the turn of the twentieth century. This biography makes use of hundreds of images of Russell, many never before published, to explore the role of photography in shaping the artist’s public image and the making and selling of his art. More than that, the book shows how the Cowboy Artist personified what he portrayed. Alongside Peterson’s engrossing tale of the life of this American icon, the hundreds of photographs of Russell, his friends, family members, business associates, colleagues, and celebrities of his time offer a unique view of the artist’s historic and cultural milieu—a view at once panoramic and intimate.