GREAT FALLS  – Three original Charlie Russell watercolors exceeded expectations and combined to fetch more than $1 million at a live art auction.

The three works by the famed Western artist sold Saturday at The Russell: the Sale to Benefit the C.M. Russell Museum, the Great Falls Tribune reported.

“Waiting for her Brave’s Return” and “Roping a Steer” each sold for $375,000. A third watercolor, “Indian on Horseback,” went for $300,000.

“The market’s up,” auctioneer Troy Black said at the beginning of the night. “There’s a good buzz in town.”

His prediction was accurate. A pen-and-ink work called “A Bunch of Riders” sold for $100,000 – double the pre-auction estimate. Other works, including art not created by Russell, also did well.

Officials put preliminary gross sales for the auction at $2.75 million. They said adding in the 10 to 13 percent buyer’s premium would likely push the total past $3 million.

The auction is part of Western Art Week in Great Falls, held the same month as the birthday of Russell, born March 19, 1864. It benefits the nonprofit museum.

“This is going phenomenal,” said Channing Hartelius, secretary of the Russell Museum’s board of directors.

Another Russell watercolor called “The Bucker” sold for $60,000, and was then donated to the Russell Museum, board Chairman Joe A. Masterson said.

Smith’s Fork Land & Cattle Co. purchased a Russell work called “Center-Fire Man on a Bronc” for $170,000 – well past its pre-auction estimate of $45,000. Other successful bidders of Russell pieces declined to be named.

The auction included some other artists as well. An oil painting by the late Nicolai Fechin sold for $100,000, better than the pre-auction estimate.

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Separate auctions not associated with the Russell Museum were held earlier and also did well. Officials with the for-profit March in Montana said they grossed $1.8 million over two days, its best result in 25 years participating in Western Art Week.

“We see people spending money now,” said Bob Nelson, owner of the Manitou Galleries, which partnered to hold the auction with the Coeur d’Alene Art Auction of Reno, Nev.

Some big items in the March in Montana auction included an oil painting by John Clymer called “Application of Pigments in Early Hopi Pottery Making.” It sold for $55,000, more than double the pre-auction estimate.

A large Navajo Ganado weaving measuring about 17 feet by 10 feet sold for $35,000. And a Lakota Sioux beaded dress went for $22,000.

“I was surprised at the overall strength of the auction,” Nelson said.

“Roping a Steer” each sold for $375,000. A third watercolor, “Indian on Horseback,” went for $300,000.

Also, a pen-and-ink work called “A Bunch of Riders” sold for $100,000 – double the pre-auction estimate.

Officials put preliminary gross sales for the auction at $2.75 million.

The auction is part of Western Art Week in Great Falls, held the same month as the birthday of Russell, born March 19, 1864.

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