Important American and European Paintings — June 12, 2012 Auction Results

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Lot 45

45: Charles Marion Russell (American, 1864-1926)
45: Charles Marion Russell (American, 1864-1926)
45: Charles Marion Russell (American, 1864-1926)
45: Charles Marion Russell (American, 1864-1926)
45: Charles Marion Russell (American, 1864-1926)
45: Charles Marion Russell (American, 1864-1926)
45: Charles Marion Russell (American, 1864-1926)
45: Charles Marion Russell (American, 1864-1926)

Charles Marion Russell (American, 1864-1926)

Charles Marion Russell (American, 1864-1926)

The Burning of the Tonquin

Unsigned
Oil on canvas

Byron Price (Director, Charles M. Russell Center for the Study of the American West, University of Oklahoma) has authenticated this painting.
7 7/8 x 12 1/2 inches

Provenance: Trails End Gallery, Pasadena, California;
The Hammer Brothers, New York, New York by 1957
To Private Collection, circa 1972

Exhibitions: Los Angeles, California, Department of Municipal Art, August 29- September 13, 1957; San Francisco California palace of the Legion of Honor (September ’57); Fine Art Gallery, October 1-12, 1957; Great Falls Montana, The C.M. Russell Foundation, Inc., Oct 14-26, 1957, catalogue number 77
Calgary Allied Art Council

The Historical Society of Montana label verso

Other Notes: We are grateful to Byron Price, Director, Charles M. Russell Center for the Study of the American West, University of Oklahoma for preparing the following essay:

The oeuvre of Montana artist Charles M. Russell contains only a handful of works devoted to maritime subjects. The Burning of the Tonquin
, said to have been one of Russell’s personal favorites, hung over his bed at Bull Head Lodge, the artist’s summer retreat on Lake McDonald. Nancy Russell retained the work after her husband’s death and airline executive, C.R. Smith, purchased it in 1941, as part her estate.

The work’s title and style suggests that Russell may have painted the unsigned and undated oil about 1922, the year he produced The Last of the Tonquin
, a pen and ink illustration for a story in the syndicated newspaper series, “”Back Trailing on the Old Frontiers.””

A commercial bark in the service of John Jacob Astor’s Pacific Fur Company, the historical Tonquin
carried 33 passengers and a crew of 23, around the horn to the mouth of the Columbia River in Oregon Territory in 1810-11. There the company established a depot from which pelts and skins acquired inland could be shipped to the East.

Although not a military vessel, Astor’s Tonquin
boasted ten cannon for protection and was commanded by a U.S. Naval officer on leave from the service.

While part of the arriving contingent built Fort Astoria, the Tonquin
sailed north, along the coast, trading for furs with native tribes as they went. After anchoring at an Indian village on Nootka Sound, near Vancouver Island, a group of Indians came aboard to trade. A heated dispute arose among the parties and as the ship’s captain attempted to get underway, tribesmen attacked and killed him and most of his crew. When the Indians returned to the ship the following day, something or someone ignited the powder magazine, blowing up the vessel and killing many of those onboard. In the end only the crew’s interpreter made it back to Astoria to report the vessel’s fate.

By portraying the Tonquin’s
demise as the result of a classic naval battle, Russell gave the ill-fated ship’s story a more heroic ending than that accorded by history.

B. Byron Price

Estimate: $20,000-40,000

Property from a Private Collection

Price Realized: $22,320