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Blackfeet War Party is recorded in the C. M. Russell Catalogue Raisonné as reference number CR.UNL.46.

According to Western American art historian Dr. Larry Len Peterson, “Inspired by the watercolors of Winslow Homer and John Singer Sargent, Charles M. Russell tackled the challenging field of watercolor painting seriously for the first time in the 1890s. His education came in the form of observing prints of other artists’ works, illustrations, exhibitions, and reading how-to artist books—the most important being H. W. Herrick’s Water Color Painting: A Description of Materials with Directions for Their Use in Elementary Practice (1882). Russell was fortunate to be working in a time when the American watercolor movement reached its apex in the 1880s and 1890s. Despite being self-taught, he mastered transparent watercolor painting and routinely employed dry brush and washes. He also began experimenting with gouache—a mix of Chinese white with transparent watercolors. His use of gouache would become a mainstay after the turn of the century.

“During this formative period, Russell often employed a pyramidal composition with a white horse at the front-center. Blackfeet War Party is a fine example of Russell, the nostalgic, using his imagination to back trail on the old frontier. The Blackfeet were his favorite subject, and they were proud of that fact. Galloping to the challenge, the robust warriors with the swirl of dust enveloping them, are eager to engage one of their mortal enemies on the Great Plains, perhaps either the Sioux or the Crow.

“It is striking how few Western American artists in Russell’s era worked in watercolor and how accomplished and prolific Russell would become in this media. In fact, one can make a case that Russell’s greatest talent was not oil painting or sculpting, but his mastery of watercolor.”

Private Collection 1983
[Sotheby’s, New York, NY 2012]
Private Collection 2012
Private Collection, NM

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