MTHS Loans Russell Paintings to Great Falls Museum for New Exhibit

Montana Historical Society


The Montana Historical Society is collaborating with the C.M. Russell Museum on an exhibit by loaning them 20 Charles M. Russell paintings held by the MTHS.

The loan of the paintings from MTHS to the non-profit Russell museum in Great Falls is part of an ongoing collaboration between the two entities, and comes as MTHS is packing its collections in anticipation of extensive renovations at its current facility in Helena.

“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,” said MTHS Director Molly Kruckenberg. “We’re also constructing a 66,000-square-foot addition, which will allow us to almost triple the size of our current Charlie Russell gallery in the existing building when we reopen in 2025.”

The loan from the state agency 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.

They will join some of the 1,000 Russell creations owned by the C.M. Russell Museum, 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,” said C.M. Russell Museum Executive Director Tom Figarelle. “This art, exhibited with those already in our loaned and permanent collection, will constitute 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.”

Russell, who died in 1926, masterfully captured the art and soul 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 majestic wildlife scenes.

Although renowned throughout the world, he spent his entire adulthood in Montana, with a home in Great Falls. His love of Montana and the life he observed shaped his art and personal philosophy for decades, as both an artist and a storyteller.

The new exhibit at the C.M. Russell Museum will open March 17.

For more information, contact Eve Byron at or 406/444-6843.


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