Considered by many to be the premier artist of the American West, Charles Marion Russell was no armchair cowboy. Born into a wealthy St. Louis family on March 19, 1864, he had his imagination piqued by stories his grandmother, Lucy Bent Russell, told about her brothers, the Bent Boys, who were famous frontier adventurers. Instead of going to school, Charlie would play hooky and hang around the docks of the thriving Mississippi, visiting with pioneers who were heading West. His parents even sent him to New Jersey to a military school in the hopes of “shaping him up”but his dream was only intensified.
Charles Russell was a masterful painter, and each of his paintings told a great story. Even the titles of the paintings told what the story depicted was about. On September 9, 1896 he married Nancy Cooper, and they moved to Great Falls. She was fourteen years his junior; she was a strong-willed woman and encouraged him to write short stories. She demanded such high prices she earned the name “Nancy the Robber”. She became his business manager and slowly but carefully built up his reputation and stopped his practice of giving away his art. Russell began to sell his paintings at good prices and together he and Nancy began to enjoy the rewards of fame. Charles Russell died in Great Falls, Montana on October 24, 1926 of a heart attack.