Where the Best of Riders Quit – Artist Charles Russell

Artist Feature

Born in St. Louis in 1864 just as the Civil War was coming to a close, young Charlie Russell’s hometown was the gateway to the rapidly filling frontier of the American West. Russell saw wagon trains lighting out for the open range, and the stories they sent back enthralled him. At the same time, his mother’s skill at painting flowers planted a seed that would become a vocation. In his teens, Russell convinced his parents to allow him to try his hand at punching cows. He made a real go of it and made lifelong friends among the characters of the Judith Basin in Montana Territory. Soon, he began to try to capture cowboy life in art, in watercolor at first, then in oil and bronze. Russell’s work was published regularly in Harper’s Weekly and was hailed as original, fresh and real even before he married Nancy Cooper in 1896. Nancy took over the business of Russell’s art and proved to be a tough, shrewd agent. Russell’s devotion to his West, and to what he called “The West that has passed” led to some of Western art’s most celebrated works.

The relationship between horse and human, in many ways, defines the American West. The bucking bronco, emblematic of the tension in the West between freedom and restraint, is a leitmotif of American Western Art, one that Charles Russell often explored. A wily, unbroken horse–with a homicidal streak–meets a wily old hand at this game in Where the Best of Riders Quit, a bronze Russell modeled in the early 1920’s. The horse rears backwards to throw the would-be rider off and fall on him. The wise horse breaker senses this, steps off as it rears, but holds on to the cheek piece, ready to mount again as this horse rises, somewhat worse for wear after its fall. Russell catches the horse just past the vertical and the rider about as far from the horse as he will get without falling himself. Gravity, having been just about defied, is just about to reassert its authority. The horse might think he’s winning, but the cowpuncher is actually in command.



Charles Russell (1864-1926)where the best of riders quit sculpture by charles russell
Where the Best of Riders Quit
14 ½ inches high
Signed and skull;
Roman Bronze Work N-Y.
Estimate: $350,000 – 550,000

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