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The Trading Post is recorded in the C. M. Russell Catalogue Raisonné as reference number CR.PC.506.

According to author and Russell historian Rick Stewart, “When Russell painted this fascinating watercolor he had lived in Montana for more than a decade, and he would soon abandon his life as a cowboy to pursue a career as an artist. Russell was a self-taught watercolor painter, but he had a natural talent for that difficult medium. His early subjects, such as this one, were notable for a stark sense of reality and high degree of observation. In this watercolor, a group of Indians are seen bartering buffalo robes for what seems to be liquor of some sort, for the trader can be seen passing a bottle into the eager hands of an Indian man, who in turn is handing him a fine painted robe. Russell reinforces the subject by showing a seated Indian at the lower left who seems to stare down at an empty liquor bottle on the ground. Although the whiskey trade on the frontier was officially discouraged or even outlawed, it nevertheless flourished. Russell had heard many accounts of the history of the fur trade on the Upper Missouri River from those who had lived it. Here he depicts a stockaded fort with a protective bastion at its corner and numerous gun ports in its walls, somewhat similar to the early posts on the Upper Missouri such as Fort McKenzie or the earliest structure of Fort Benton, whose history Russell knew well. Russell’s watercolor is notable for the careful attention he pays to the details of the Indians’ dress and accessories. At this early stage of his development, Russell already possessed a fine eye for accuracy and historical authenticity.”

Anderson Galleries, New York, New York
Elmo Caruthers, Jr., Englewood, New Jersey, 1938
Present owners, by descent

Heritage Plantation, Sandwich, Massachusetts

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