Joe Greer Russell, 1926-2008

Joe Greer Russell was born in Austin, Texas, August 23, 1926 to Gladys Greer Russell and Joe A. Russell. He began to put his view of Texas down on paper at age four. As he grew up, his Grandfather Will and Great Grandfather Hardin Russell were sheriffs of Blanco County. Joe and his father were accomplished horsemen and enjoyed membership in the Capital City Mounted Posse, a precision-riding club. These interests united with his art in early drawings of horses and riders as well as western scenes painted in oils.

First studying agriculture in college, he became serious about art at the University of Texas. A commercial art career at the prestigious Graphics Studio in Austin led to directing art at the Texas A&M Press in College Station. During this time he also worked in his home studio and became affiliated with galleries in Houston and Austin. He then decided it was time to follow his heart. In 1966, Joe moved his family to Kerrville where he began painting in oils full-time. Joe continued his studies in Cloudcroft, New Mexico and at the Banff School of Fine Art in Alberta, Canada. He concentrated on portraiture for several years at the Marion Koogler McNay Museum in San Antonio, Texas. The hilltop studio he had built and loved was at the end of a typical ranch road south of Kerrville.

Joe G. Russell would have told you that experience was his best teacher…that it led to creating a style and technique all his own. He was a quiet unassuming gentleman who preferred to let his art do his talking for him. When a subject matter made its way into his heart and mind it blended with his honesty and clear view of how wonderful this world around us really is as he put it down on canvas. He was inspired by God's creations. Inviting the viewer to go riding on his hillsides, take a dip in the cool streams, or explore each building tucked into his landscapes. His skies are magic carpets to escape on. The eyes of the people he portrayed appear to harbor their own stories. Joe became a member of the Texas Cowboy Artists Association in 1981. He frequently exhibited with them and the Southwest Classic Invitational Fine Art Show.

Joe left this life August 27, 2008. He is missed and his spirit lives on in his work.

Three of Joe's favorite quotations, collected and kept over many years:

"Blessed is he who has found his work; let him ask no other blessedness. He has a work, a life purpose; he has found it and will follow it!" - Thomas Carlyle

"Let us cross over the river and rest in the shade of the trees." - Stonewall Jackson (last words) Joe found this when doing his Civil War generals series and really liked it.

"I've always felt that an artist is great because he brings an enormous gift to the rest of humanity" - Unknown

The following appeared in a 1980 brochure Joe created for his artwork:

“You must forsake the highways for the country roads, and sooner or later you must leave your car if you would begin to understand and feel the spirit of nature in the Texas hill country. When you have walked far back through the countryside the feeling does not come upon you suddenly. You sit down; leaning against a tree or perhaps an old rock fence, and remain very still. Slowly, an awareness comes over you – an awareness of how vast and quiet the land is. You realize that here a noise is a rarity. It has been this way for hundreds of years; it will be this way after you walk away.

It is this feeling of quiet and solitude that Mr. Russell most often – though by no means always – seeks to bring into his landscapes. The paintings are not so apt to remind one of a view along the highway or the scene in back of Uncle Bill’s house in the country. More likely the viewer will feel that this is a place not too often visited by man. Though there may be signs of man’s having passed this way – a pasture road, a fence – this still is a place far from the crowd.

Joe G. Russell was born in 1926 in Austin, Texas, and except for brief times in Johnson City and Fredericksburg, spent the first thirty years of his life living there. Both his great-grandfather and grandfather had been sheriffs of Blanco County (his grandfather’s Johnson City house later became the boyhood home of Lyndon B. Johnson). The hill country became the only thing that challenged his love for art.”

Joe assigned star numbers only 5 of his paintings. These were, in his opinion, his best work. This one is called "Summer Buildup" Star #4. Joe and Jane Russell donated this painting to the Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital in Kerrville, Texas April 2008. It now hangs in the surgical waiting room to offer people hope as they wait out their own storms.


Read Spotlight on Joe Russell, An Interview by Gene Ball (PDF format)
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