The Montana Historical Society is loaning 20 Charles M. Russell paintings to the C.M. Russell Museum in Great Falls as the Helena museum is undergoing extensive renovations, officials said Friday.
They said this loan is part of an ongoing collaboration between the two entities.
“It just makes sense to loan these paintings to the C.M. Russell Museum so they can be enjoyed by the public while we’re undergoing upgrades to our current facility,” MTHS Director Molly Kruckenberg said in a news release.
She noted the 66,000-square-foot addition to the Montana Heritage Center will allow the Helena museum to almost triple the size of its current Russell gallery when it reopens in 2025.
The loan includes some of Russell’s most iconic paintings, including “Laugh Kills Lonesome,” a 1925 oil on canvas; “York,” a 1908 watercolor; and “Caught in the Act,” an 1888 oil on canvas.
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They will join some of the 1,000 Russell creations owned by the C.M. Russell Museum, a nonprofit which holds one of the world’s largest Russell collections.
“Charlie would have deeply appreciated this collaboration between friends, the C.M. Russell Museum and the Montana Historical Society,” C.M. Russell Museum Executive Director Tom Figarelle said in the release.
He said this art, exhibited with those already in the Russell’s loaned and permanent collection, will be the largest-single venue of Russell Masterworks anywhere.
“We are proud of this, but we are particularly thrilled to advance our relationship with MTHS during their transformative project,” Figarelle said.
Russell, who died in 1926 and spent his adulthood in Montana with a home in Great Falls, captured the spirit of the American West through his work that includes oil paintings, watercolors, sculptures, and writing. Known internationally as the “original cowboy artist,” his work celebrates Indigenous culture, grand landscapes and wildlife scenes.
The C.M. Russell Museum, 400 13th St. N. in Great Falls, is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Monday through April 30 and then switches to 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Sunday through Sept. 30.