PAINTED: OLD ART, NEW SKIN – CHARLES M. RUSSELL’S ‘SEEING SANTA CLAUS’
While our last Painted post waxed philosophical with a tale of two Christmases, this selection made me smile. What could be more American than Christmas and Cowboys? The painting Seeing Santa Claus by Charles M. Russell isn’t particularly realistic nor is totally cartoonish. What I really enjoy about it is its lightheartedness and the cowboy’s “HOLY $H!T?!?” face, the startled horse, and the jolly Santa Claus riding his reindeer through the sky in the background.
This would probably make a great holiday card, or even worthy of a year-round spot on a wall somewhere that you’ll see often enough to remind you to smile. If I was on vacation at a ski resort or something like that, seeing something like this would make me think I’m staying at a cool place.
The features that make this painting pop for me beyond the simple content choices are the use of color. Though this is a “cold” painting, the artist does a good job of making it a warm sort of cold — warm in the sense that it appears soft. The brush strokes aren’t particularly jagged anywhere except in the use of the brush branches — the snow itself is a slightly bluish white as opposed to a pure white, and the sky has hints of yellow that take the “edge” off of things.
The fact that the cowboys horse is slightly blurred around the edges makes it seem softer as well — its large eye lashes also give it a friendly appearance. The faded reindeer also give the impression of snow. The central position of the moon appears almost like an incandescent light that makes the entire landscape feel “well lit” as opposed to a desolate wilderness.
Last but not least, the thing that made me enjoy the painting in the first place: the jolly Santa Claus contrasted with the surprised Cowboy, his breath visible in the air add a sense of overall cheer to this painting.