Attack on a Wagon Train by Charles Marion Russell

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Attack on a Wagon Train by Charles Marion Russell

Painting NameAttack on a Wagon Train
Painter NameCharles Marion Russell
Completion Date1902
Place of CreationUSA
Size91.44 x 60.96 cm (36" x 24")
Current LocationPublic collection

This 1902, oil-on-canvas painting , “Attack on a Wagon”, is a work of an Old American West artist Charles Marion Russell known as the ‘cowboy artist’. It is a depiction of a bunch of red-Indians attacking on the wagon train of white men. The scene is from the time around mid-1800s, when the American government started to expand their lands. In this process, the wide-spread red-Indians across all of the USA were the main interruption for the government.

Government used harsh techniques in the acquisition. By attacking on the tribes with much advanced and powerful weapons than those traditional Indians who had spears as the most advanced technology. To stay safe, some tribes leaned under and started to live on the lands given by the government. Government called them “civilized”, but the real meaning of the word was that the tribes which were no longer able to rebel against the government.

But many other tribes didn’t give up easily. Reasons are obvious. They were living on those lands from the beginning of life. The grassy plains were the home to the buffalos on which the Indian-tribes were dependent. They would hunt down the animals from the lands. And now, all of a sudden, some white people wanted their lands in exchange of nothings but giving a refuge life.

It was not accepted by the majority. They fought against the white men with the spears. They didn’t want the whites to cross their lands. To scare them away, the Indian started to attack on the wagon trains which were passing through their territories. In the current portrayal, we are seeing the same situation.

A bunch of Red Indian riders with their traditional spears (which they used to hunt down the animals) are attacking on a wagon train. Maybe it is before the government gave military protection to wagons, as we can’t see any defending troops around the wagon –train. For Indians who are habituated to hunt down animals in those vast lands, the wagon-train is an easy-target. The bright and clear environment states it is a sunny day in the Wild West. Not for the travellers though.

Painter has succeeded depicting those intense moments on the canvas. The spacious land, daylight, red-Indians with their traditional costumes and weapons and the wagon-train, everything is displayed according to the real facts and situations. The helplessness of both the hunters and the preys can be seen. We can say that in this single moment Russell has brought up the entire scenario of the Wild West in front of our eyes.


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