"Inspired by Western and Indian life, Charles Craig did paintings
characterized by detailed accuracy, gained from several years spent living with
various tribes and carefully recording the details of their culture. A
fifty-year resident of Colorado Springs, he was the state's first academically
trained resident artist, and his paintings reflected many aspects of his region
including the Ute Indians. Friends called him "Pink Face Charlie"
because his disposition and his paintings were invariably cheerful and sunny.
Charles Craig was born in 1846 on a farm in Morgan County, Ohio. He began
painting as a boy, creating his palette from natural materials and canvases
made from oil and flour treated cotton cloths.
At the age of 19, he traveled West by going up the Missouri River as far as
Fort Benton, Montana. For four years, 1865-1869, he explored, sketched and
lived with Indian tribes. It was during this time that he realized he needed to
further his technical skills in order to record his experiences accurately. He
returned to Ohio and set up a studio in Zanesville, where he painted portraits
at $75.00 each to earn enough money to finance his art education.
Then he studied for a year in Philadelphia at the Pennsylvania Academy of the
Fine Arts where Peter Moran, brother of Thomas Moran and a painter of Indians,
was influential as one of his teachers.
Returning to Zanesville, Charles Craig did a painting titled Custer's Last
Charge, which had detailed descriptions of battlefield weapons, etc. In
1881, at the urging of his friend, Jack Howland, Craig headed West permanently,
stopping first in Taos, New Mexico where he became "the first western
artist to paint in Taos".
He settled in Colorado Springs for the next fifty years, the earliest resident
artist in that resort community and one of the longest to have an active career
Craig set up a studio in the building of Howbert's Opera House. He supplemented
his income by giving art lessons and made regular visits to the the Ute
reservation in Southwestern Colorado. One of those trips, in 1893, was with his
friend, painter Frank Sauerwein.
Craig's Indian paintings were noted for their detailed accuracy, although many
of his later works showed Barbizon influence of Tonalism. He exhibited
regularly in the Antlers Hotel of Colorado Springs, but a fire there in 1895
destroyed many of his works.
There is an interesting story about his Native American paintings. One time while Charles Craig was preparing to paint a young Ute Indian brave, other Ute Indians watched through the windows. They saw Charles Craig take one of the feathers from his sombrero and stick it in the brave's braided hair so that it stood straight up behind his head. The next day, he noticed that all of the Utes who had been watching, came around with a single feather upright on their heads! He also became an honorary sub-chief when Buckskin Charlie, Chief of one of the Ute Tribes, told his son that Charles Craig was, "One big man; heap big painter man. He, now, one Great Ute Chief - Pink-Face Charlie."
Charles Craig was a very determined painter. He used to ride around Colorado Springs on a bicycle. One day he took a nasty fall and broke both of his wrists. That accident didn't stop his paintings. He tied paintbrushes onto his bandaged wrists and continued drawing and painting."
Two of his paintings (The Buffalo Hunt and Pioneer Wagon at Sunset) are on display at the Pioneers Museum in Colorado Springs.
Alice Trimble Craig (1856 - 1947)
El Paso County
Created by: Kimberly G. Toelle
Record added: Aug 18, 2006
Find A Grave Memorial# 15413716