Today's Hours
Museum: 10:00 AM - 7:00 PM
Gardens: 7:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Today's Hours
Museum: 10:00 AM - 7:00 PM
Gardens: 7:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Remington, Frederic
Collection: American Collection
View Artwork
In 1892, William Coffin, art critic, wrote for Scribner's Magazine:

It is a fact that admits of no question that Eastern people have formed
their conceptions of what the Far-Western life is like, more from what
they have seen in Mr. Remington's pictures than from any other source.

Over a hundred years later, no matter which side of the continent on which
they reside, Americans still base their image of the American West of the
past on the panorama and life and death struggle of the individual against
overwhelming forces that Remington gave us in his paintings and sculptures
- whether preserved in the conscious imitation of the "Marlboro Man" ads
or the more artistic epic vision of moviemakers like John Ford, whose film
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon was directly based on Frederic
Remington's art.

Frederic Remington himself was no westerner. Born on October 4, 1861 in
Canton, New York, he was the son of a newspaper owner who served as a
cavalry major during the Civil War and told his son soul-stirring stories
of that epic conflict. Predisposed from his youth therefore to be
fascinated by both horses and combat, Remington was drawn to the idea of
the West and, after only a year and a half at Yale's School of Fine Arts,
dropped out to try life on a ranch in Montana.

He lasted two months before using a small inheritance to buy a sheep ranch
in Kansas instead. The sheep ranch also went by the wayside after a year,
and Frederic returned to the East to marry his college sweetheart, Eva
Caten. However, Remington took extended trips throughout the Southwest,
accompanying the cavalry as it pursued Geronimo and exploring other areas
ranging from the Canadian plains to Mexico. He continuously drew and
painted not only what he saw, but also what he imagined, selling his
illustrations to magazines catering to Eastern curiosity about the wild
and woolly frontier. By 1890, his work was very much in demand.

But it is chiefly the images of Remington's Western men that seize our
imagination and which have become American icons, from the rugged cowboys
of paintings like "Blandy" and sculptures like "Coming Through the Rye",
to the sensitive rendition of the Indian forced to turn from warrior to
farmer in "The Twilight of the Indian", to the lean, square-jawed,
steely-eyed troopers that he both idolized and immortalized in works like
"Arrival of a Courier".

In the mid-1890s, Remington began sculpting in bronze for the first time,
creating what are probably his most famous pieces. His first and most
popular was "The Bronco Buster" which he first cast in the traditional
sand method. However, once introduced to the superior lost wax process,
Remington made sure all subsequent castings were done in that method.

He finally got his curiosity about battle satisfied when he accompanied
troops to the Spanish-American War as a war correspondent, but instead of
the glorious combat he had envisioned, he found himself disillusioned by
the realities of war. He retired to an island retreat on the St. Lawrence
River and continued to refine his art while depicting a West he now
avoided, a West that had turned from his grand imaginings into a West that
was, ". . . all brick buildings - derby hats and blue overhauls [sic] - it
spoils my early illusions - and they are my capital."

Aged only 48, Remington died abruptly of appendicitis in 1909. In his
all-too-brief career, he had managed to produce more than 3,000 drawings
and paintings, 22 bronze sculptures, a novel, a Broadway play, and over
100 stories and articles. His work had both celebrated and immortalized
life on the frontier even as that frontier was closing. He saw the Western
experience as one of independence, individualism, and heroism, and, in the
process, he contributed immeasurably to our definition of ourselves: the
image of what it means to be unique American.

Everl Adair, Director of Research and Rare Collections