Frederic G. Renner described this painting as Russell’s “first formal commission.” His patron was James R. Shelton, proprietor of the original saloon-hotel in Utica, the little town founded in 1881 in Montana’s Judith Basin. Shelton wanted a mural sized painting to hang above his bar. Since Russell had neither oil paints nor artist’s canvas he settled for house paints and a pine board one-and-one-half feet wide and nearly six feet long with screw eyes in the back to suspend it from a rope. Western Scene‘s crudeness and raw color can be accounted for in part by the fact that in 1885 Russell was still more cowboy than artist. The three subjects included are all ones Russell later returned to: the wagon train drawn up in a defensive circle; the herd of elk in Yogo Canyon; and pronghorn antelope flagged by hunters. He included a buffalo skull in the composition. By 1887 it had become such a fixture in his work that he described it as his “trade mark.”