Gateway to the West

Named after Louis IX of France, St. Louis is a city filled with history. Now home to Anheuser-Busch and the Gateway Arch, St. Louis was once home to some of our SRM artists: Charles Russell, Oscar Berninghaus & Herbert Herget.

Downtown St. Louis. Image courtesy Timothy K Hamilton.

Born in St. Louis in 1864, Charles Marion Russell grew up in Oak Hill at his family’s manor-style house near present-day Tower Grove Park, a site of picnics and Sunday gatherings for the best families of St. Louis. For Russell, it was a great area in which to ride his horse. Once a rural plantation, Oak Hill was a suburb of St. Louis by the time Russell and his family moved to the area, welcoming the development around them. His father, Charles Silas Russell, was president of the local Parker-Russell Mining & Manufacturing company, a leading maker of industrial fire bricks. St. Louis was a city mostly made out of bricks, with over 80 brickyards in town by 1870. The Russells expected Charlie to join the family business or go to college. Instead, Charlie headed out west to Montana to fulfill his childhood dream of becoming a cowboy.

Charles M. Russell, Cowpunching Sometimes Spells Trouble, 1889, Oil on canvas, 26 x 41 inches

Russell visited his family from time to time, which would have afforded him the opportunity to explore the exhibits at the 1904 World’s Fair hosted in St. Louis, where Russell had a few of his own paintings on display.

Russell was not the only SRM artist at the St. Louis World’s Fair. Oscar Berninghaus had two designs selected for the fair’s medal competition. Before he became one of the founding members of the Taos Society of Artists, Berninghaus spent his formal years in St. Louis, where he was born in 1874. Like Russell, Berninghaus began his art-making at a young age, sketching local scenes around town. He left school to become a lithographer, eventually working for Woodward & Tiernan, the city’s leading commercial printing firm. Berninghaus also completed illustrations for the local Anheuser-Busch Brewing company and painted several works for the Busch family throughout his career, many of which can be found today in the St. Louis Art Museum.

Anheuser-Busch Brewery. Image courtesy Katherine Johnson.

Oscar E. Berninghaus, The Forty-Niners, Before 1942, Oil on canvas, 26 1/4 x 36 1/4 inches

Audiences may be less familiar with another artist in our collection, Herbert Herget. Herget was born in St. Louis in 1885. Like Russell and Berninghaus, Herget enjoyed making art at a young age, drawing inspiration from the reproductions of Frederic Remington’s paintings published in popular magazines of the day. After attending public schools in St. Louis, Herget spent six months studying sculpture before he decided to pursue painting. His first serious training as a painter took place at the Washington University School of Fine Art. Later, Herget spent several years serving as an apprentice and illustrator for the publishers Woodward & Tiernan, the very same printing firm at which Berninghaus began his commercial art career. Today, the historic Woodward & Tiernan building in St. Louis is transitioning into loft-style apartments.

Woodward and Tiernan Printing Company. Lithographic retouching department. Photograph by W.C. Persons, 1926. Missouri Historical Society Photographs and Prints Collections. NS 34596. Scan © 2006, Missouri Historical Society.

Workers in the Finishing Department at Woodward and Tiernan Printing Company, 1926. Photographer: W.C. Persons. Collection: Industrial Buildings. Image Courtesy of Missouri History Museum, St. Louis.

Who else at our museum has ties to St. Louis? Our museum director, Mary Burke! Having grown up in the Gateway City, Mary is familiar with many of these artists’ old haunts. For the past two decades, Mary has worked to preserve and share Sid’s legacy through the museum’s collection and education programming.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *