GREAT FALLS — The C.M. Russell Museum announced this week that it has bought the Charles Russell watercolor Brother Van on Buffalo Hunt from long-time owner Benefis Health System. The museum and hospital hosted a ceremony on Wednesday to celebrate the purchase.
The proceeds from the $400,000 purchase will support the new Benefis Women's & Children's Center, which is currently being built near the intersection of 10th Avenue South and 26th Street.
CMR Museum director Tom Figarelle said, "(It) benefits our collection, which supports the hospital and their endeavors as well, and help us tell the story of not only Charlie Russell better but of western characters like Brother Van."
Prior to the purchase, the painting had been on loan at the museum from the hospital since 1968, most recently as part of the museum’s exhibition on American bison.
The Visit Great Falls Montana website has more information "Brother Van," including this overview:
William Wesley Van Orsdel, or more fondly called Brother Van, came to Montana via steamboat in 1872. He told the captain he was going to Montana “to sing, to preach, and to encourage people to be good.” He loved everyone he met, including settlers, American Indians, freighters, cowboys, soldiers, gamblers, and miners. In return, everyone that met Brother Van loved him, earning him the title “Best Loved Man in Montana.” In the 1880s, Brother Van met a young CM Russell while Russell was working as a rancher in Judith Gap.
Museum officials said in a news release that the purchase was supported by donations from several Great Falls donors, including our Art and Soul Campaign co-chair Gene Thayer, campaign steering committee members Owen Robinson and Pat Sletten, and Benefis staff members John Goodnow, Casey Buckingham, Forrest Ehlinger, Rayn Ginnaty, Kaci Husted, and Greg Tierney.