The Defiant Culprit by Charles M. Russell

Name: The Defiant Culprit | Artist: Charles M. Russell Media: Oil on masonite panel | Year(s): 1895
Charles M. Russell | The Defiant Culprit | 1895 | Oil on masonite panel | 18 1/2 inches x 24 3/8 inches

About the Work

Lacking specific information on the incident portrayed here, it is a fair guess that the "defiant culprit" has been captured on a horse raid and is now about to pay the price of his temerity. Clothing and hair styles suggest that a Sioux warrior is facing his Blackfoot captors. Russell has underlined the melodramatic nature of the moment by throwing the tipi into deep shadow, allowing the flickering firelight to play over the stern features of the culprit's judges and the stooped figure of the old woman. The long arm of the law literally rests on the culprit's shoulder while he stands with his blanket dropped at his feet, vulnerable in his nakedness but arrogant in his pride. "It's their religion to die without a whimper," Russell wrote in one of his Indian stories. Such stoicism was a trait right out of the noble savage convention that Russell professed to disdain but could not resist.