Filed Under Place

Charles M. Russell Home and Studio

National Historic Landmark

Beginning in 1900, no place was more closely associated with “Cowboy Artist” Charles M. Russell (1864-1926) than his home and log-cabin studio. Born into a prominent St. Louis family, Russell arrived on the frontier in 1880, just in time to witness its closing. In spite of his late entrance, he spent his career chronicling—through art and story—what he termed “The West That Has Passed,” a rugged, but beloved, landscape inhabited only by cowboys, Indians, cattle, and wildlife. For a time after arriving in Montana Territory, Charlie supported himself by working as a cowboy. Yet even while riding the range, he was never without his watercolors, pencils, or modeling wax. In 1894, Russell quit cowboying to pursue art full-time. Two years later he married Nancy Cooper, gaining not only a wife, but an expert business manager who would play a crucial role in transforming the self-taught artist into a national celebrity. In 1900, the couple built this modest frame house from which Nancy managed the business aspects of Charlie’s career. Three years later, they constructed “a log studio… just a cabin like I [Charlie] used to live in”—only this time it was built of telephone poles. Thereafter, as Nancy noted, “to the end of his life he loved that … building more than any other place on earth and never finished a painting anywhere else.” Today the house and studio stand as memorials to Montana’s favorite son who epitomized, for both his contemporaries and for future generations, the spirit of the mythic West.


Images

Charles Marion Russell at his studio in Great Falls, MT.
Charles Marion Russell at his studio in Great Falls, MT. Russell is seated on the porch rail in front of his log studio in 1907. In addition to the antlers that adorned the roof, the studio— constructed of telephone poles adjacent to his Fourth Avenue North home in 1903—was filled with Charlie’s collection of Native American artifacts, “horse jewelry,” and other western gear. Source: PAc 944-701, Montana Historical Society Photograph Archives, Helena, MT. Creator: Ecklund Studio Date: 1907
Charles M. Russell in his studio.
Charles M. Russell in his studio. Charles M. Russell working in his studio about 1921. Source: 944-702, Montana Historical Society Photograph Archives. Creator: unknown photographer Date: ca. 1921
Nancy Russell at her desk.
Nancy Russell at her desk. Nancy works at her desk in the Russells’ Great Falls home about 1917. Source: PAc 2000-40.23, Montana Historical Society Photograph Archives, Helena, MT. Creator: A. J. Thiri Date: ca. 1917
Funeral of Charles M. Russell
Funeral of Charles M. Russell Charlie Russell died at home on October 25, 1926, at the age of sixty-two. The horsedrawn hearse waits in front of his house and log studio. Source: Lot 9.1.7.02, Montana Historical Society Photograph Archives, Helena, MT. Creator: unknown photographer Date: October 1926
Russell Home
Russell Home Photo of house exterior. Source: Montana Historical Society Creator: Tom Ferris, photographer Date: 26 September, 2021
Russell Home/Studio
Russell Home/Studio Photo of house interior. Source: Montana Historical Society Creator: Tom Ferris, photographer Date: 26 September, 2021
Russell Home/Studio
Russell Home/Studio Photo of house interior. Source: Montana Historical Society Creator: Tom Ferris, photographer Date: 26 September, 2021

Location

1217-1219 Fourth Avenue North, Great Falls, MT

Metadata

Montana National Register Sign Program, “Charles M. Russell Home and Studio,” Historic Montana, accessed April 14, 2024, https://historicmt.org/items/show/2847.