oil on canvas
50 x 46 inches
From the brief era of the North American fur trade, an almost mythic icon emerged: the Mountain Man. They were young men, eager to explore, who joined beaver trapping expeditions in pursuit of wealth, freedom and adventure. They were among the first white men to penetrate the uncharted territory of the Rocky Mountains and beyond to the west coast.
In 1834 the fur trade was in full swing when, at Independence, Missouri, 20 year old Osborne Russell joined Nathaniel Wyeth’s expedition bound for the Rocky Mountains and the mouth of the Columbia River. Later, Russell joined a brigade led by Jim Bridger. Russell spent the next nine years in the mountains trapping and trading.
Fortunately for us, Russell was literate and maintained a detailed journal of his experiences and observations. Even amid the dangers and often brutal circumstances the wilderness delivered, he was smitten by its beauty and penned this eloquent passage: “I almost wished I could spend the remainder of my days in a place like this where happiness and contentment seemed to reign in wild romantic splendor surrounded by majestic battlements which seemed to support the heavens and shut out all hostile intruders”.
Inspired by Russell’s words, this painting depicts that magic time when the sun gives way to shadow. Ambient light from a fading sky illuminates three mountain men and their camp. It is the last moments of a day in 1834.