Charles M. Russell (1864-1926)
Planning the Attack (The Wagon Train) (1902)
watercolor on paper
9 x 12 inches
signed and dated lower left
Label, Trigg - C. M. Russell Foundation, Great Falls, MT
Planning the Attack (The Wagon Train) is recorded in the C. M. Russell Catalogue Raisonné as reference number CR.UNL.310.
Rick Stewart wrote, “Almost from the beginning the Plains Indians recognized the threat that the covered wagon caravans represented to their way of life. Sometimes their response was not necessarily to engage in open warfare with the caravans, but to demand tribute from them. ‘Emigrants continually reported that the Indians who came to demand tribute explained also why they were requesting the payments,’ the historian John D. Unrah has written. ‘The native explicitly emphasized that the throngs of overlanders were killing and scaring away buffalo and other wild game, overgrazing prairie grasses, exhausting the small quantity of available timber, and depleting water resources.’ The tribute payments, which could be in specie or provisions were demanded by the Sioux and other tribes whose domains were crossed.
“But conflicts nevertheless occurred because most of the emigrants felt that the Indians had no rights to begin with, and certainly no real ownership of the land over which the wagons passed. In painting his watercolors of this subject, perhaps Russell felt some sort of sympathy with the Indians and their plight; after all, these scenes were painted from the Indian’s point of view not that of the white man. ‘You can’t blame the Indian very much for being sore at the whites, as they killed what nature had provided for their food and did it wantonly’ Russell is said to have told one of his friends. In his art, Russell sought to make the Indians more visible and appealing, at a time when public sympathy for them was increasing as their frontier culture was rapidly vanishing. By the time he painted the watercolors of the Plains Indians and the wagon trains there was already a broad perception of Indians as ‘Noble Savages’ disappearing before the onslaught of white civilization.”
William J. Roberts, Great Falls, MT
Warner Collection, Tuscaloosa, AL
[The Owings Gallery, Santa Fe, NM]
Private Collection, OR
The Westervelt-Warner Museum of Art, Tuscaloosa, AL (long-term loan)
As viewed through glass. Paper appears to be in good condition. Faint mat burns across top and in upper-right corner. Colors are bright.