Object Record

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Catalog Number X1963.02.01
Title PROSPECTOR, THE
Object Name Drawing
Artist Russell, Charles M. (1864-1926)
Dimensions H-9.75 W-13.75 inches
Medium Pen and Ink/Paper
Date 1901
Notes n 1901 Russell drafted a series of sixteen character sketches that have collectively become known as his "Western Types." Each features a full-scale portrait of a single, prototypical Westerner, augmented with a much smaller vignette executed beneath it to help provide context for that "type." Fourteen of the characters portrayed were men; the two females depicted were both Native American.

With the discovery of gold in southwestern Montana in the early 1860s, many men were lured to the region by the tantalizing promise of instant wealth. In reality, few struck it rich and those who did endured countless hours of backbreaking labor and harsh living and working conditions. While the accompanying vignette depicts a solitary prospector on a precipitous mountain trail, miners who were lucky enough to hit "pay dirt" were seldom alone for long. News of major strikes traveled rapidly and, with the discovery of gold, places like Grasshopper Creek, Alder Gulch, and Last Chance Gulch swelled from lone claims to the booming camps of Bannack, Virginia City, and Helena that, seemingly overnight, numbered residents in the thousands. Although Russell did produce a small number of works that, like The Prospector, depicted Montana's early mining history, the quest for gold and its promise of easy riches never captured his imagination the way that cowboy life or traditional Plains Indian culture did.
Search Terms Mining
Prospecting
Gold
Western Types
Art