RENO, Nev. — A total of 30 Charles M. Russell works fetched millions of dollars at auction in Reno, with one painting, symbolizing the railroad’s effect on American Indians, drawing $1.9 million and another, depicting a Native American chief, $1.1 million.
Other top prices at the annual Coeur d’Alene Art Auction last week included $1.7 million for a Frederic Remington painting featuring a group of Indians and $1.5 million for a Thomas Moran painting depicting an Arizona gulch.
Russell artwork is highly sought after, auction organizer Mike Overby said, and commanded from about $25,000 for small sketches to $1.9 million for his 1924 watercolor “Trail of the Iron Horse.”
The painting shows a group of Indians on horseback looking down at railroad tracks with the sun setting on the open plains in the background.
“It’s a very iconic image, absolutely one of his best,” Overby said. “There’s so much symbolism in that painting. I think that’s what really grabs people’s heartstrings. Russell is still considered the absolute blue-chip artist of our genre.”
Russell’s romantic 1897 “Dakota Chief,” which sold for $1.1 million, depicts a young Native American on horseback, wearing a long-tailed feathered headdress and carrying a lance. While Russell was known as “the cowboy artist” in his early days, he actually painted more Indian subjects, historians say.
Remington’s 1907 “The Story of Where the Sun Goes,” which fetched $1.7 million, depicts several young Indians sitting in a grove of trees and listening to an elder.
“His large oils are extremely rare and hardly ever come to market, and when they do, there’s always interest in them,” Overby said.
More than 650 registered bidders took part in what was billed as the world’s largest Western art sale. About 320 works were sold for about some $30 million, nearly the same as last year’s $30.5 million.