In his Self-Portrait, painted in 1900, Russell stands with his feet placed firmly on the ground and his hat tipped back; through his painting he depicts himself as a hardworking yet open-minded person. He wears the red scarf and custom made boots that were a mark of his uniqueness, just as much as his quick intelligence, brief speech, and as a talented storyteller – shown in his amusing short stories and illustrated letters. According to Charlie Russell in his Charlie Russell Journal, “ I am old-fashioned and peculiar in my dress. I am eccentric (that is a polite way of saying you’re crazy). I believe in luck and have lots of it…Any man that can make a living doing what he likes is lucky, and I’m that.” Viewed as a modest and humble man, Russell saw his awe-inspiring talent as simply “luck.”
In September 1896, he married Nancy Cooper, who became his business manager. Under her help and leadership, Russell gained national recognition and successfully advertised his artwork. Russell learned through observation, his artwork improved after 1903 when he and Nancy made visits to New York. In the bustling city of New York, Russell began working with professional illustrators, where he liked taking part of an artistic community – something he didn’t have in Montana.
Russell painted and sculpted in his log studio next to their Great Falls home, filling it with his broad collection of Native American and cowboy objects. Russell completed all of his major paintings in the studio after it was constructed in 1903. This studio was also a place where Russell created playful wax animals and clay figures, all of which he enjoyed making. Mountain Mother expresses the lively personality of the cubs and the protective instinct of the sow. Russell’s works were popular because of their narrative themes, unique style, and energetic action. Because of this, he was able to paint make-believe. American Indian women were in many of Russell’s paintings, such as Indian Woman Moving Camp.
The Plains tribes provided the artist with the opportunity of showing the Indian women proudly riding on horseback. Indian Woman Moving Camp shows his respect for the talent, independence, and bravery of the Plains Indian women.
Charlie Russell became not only the favorite son of his home state of Montana; also the personification of the West itself. He chose to honor only the ways of the West as he saw it. He needed it realized that he had taken part in the West; that he was a superior man for it. Even as an well known artist, Russell loved – even more than his talents – his friendships and his place with common people. Russell completed over 4,000 artworks during his lifetime. He lived in Montana for 46 years and knew his topic well, setting the requirements for many artists to come. Charles M. Russell died in Great Falls, Montana, on October 24, 1926.