Born on a farm in Morgan County, Ohio, Charles Craig is known as an important Indian genre painter, Western landscapist and illustrator. Self-taught as an artist, he made his first Western trip up the Missouri River in 1865, spending four years with various tribes of Indians and getting as far as Fort Benton in Montana.
Returning from his trip, Craig then opened a studio in Zanesville, Ohio. He painted portraits from life or photographs for $75 each to earn his tuition for art training. Craig was a student at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art in 1872 to 1873, and also studied with Peter Moran, the younger brother of Thomas Moran. When Craig returned to Zanesville, he painted Custer’s Last Charge, using descriptions and implements from the battlefield.
In 1881, on his way to Colorado Springs, Colorado at the urging of fellow painter Jack Howland, Craig became the first major Western artist to paint in Taos, New Mexico. In 1883, he returned to New Mexico to sketch in Taos and Santa Fe. However, Craig settled in Colorado Springs, where he made his home for 50 years. His first studio was in Howbert’s Opera House building.
His paintings of this period are noted for their accuracy of ethnological detail, resulting from his many trips to the Ute reservation in southwestern Colorado. One of those trips, in 1893, was with Frank Sauerwein. Craig’s style during that time was hard-edged and literal. A large number of paintings of this period, however, were lost in 1895 due to a fire in the old Antler Hotel, which at that time housed Craig’s studio. As one of the first trained Western artists in the area, he took an active part in the art life of Colorado, and his later painting style demonstrated the Barbizon influence.
Called “Pink-Face Charlie,” Craig was always sunny and optimistic, and so were his paintings. Craig died in Colorado Springs, Colorado in 1931.
Reference: The Illustrated Biographical Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West - Peggy and Harold Samuels