Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Remington: An Exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC

'Standing Off Indians, illustration for T. Roosevelt book, Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail, ca. 1888 
Name an American artist whose work specialized in the American West and most likely you will think of either C.M. Russell or Frederic Remington. It was my good fortune to recently visit a Remington exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
'On the Headwaters--Burgess Finding a Ford' illustration for Policing the Yellowstone, 1893, Harper's
While Remington came from upstate New York, connections to the west were certainly in his blood. He was distantly related to George Catlin, portrait artist of Native Americans, to the Remingtons of rifle fame, and to mountain man Jedediah Smith.  These connections did not seem to have particularly inspired him early on; he was something of a dilettante and highly unfocused, preferring football to his art classes at Yale, and subsequently going through several unrelated jobs upon his father’s death.  The brief stint at Yale, along with some courses at the Art Students’ League in NYC, were his only formal art training.

illustration for Owen Lister's book, 'Lin McLean' published 1898
Aged nineteen, in 1881, Remington finally headed west to Montana. He eventually bought an interest in an unsuccessful sheep ranch in KS, but it was upon his marriage in 1884 that he finally opened a studio, initially in Kansas City, MO.  His first published sketch, of a Wyoming cowboy, appeared in Harper’s Weekly in Feb. 1882. After extensive travels throughout the west, Remington returned to NY where his career took off.
The Old Dragoons of 1850, modeled 1905, cast 1907
Remington’s illustrations appeared in forty-nine periodicals, predominantly Collier’s and Harper’s.  He also went on to illustrate books by such acclaimed authors as Owen Wister, Longfellow, T. Roosevelt, and Francis Parkman. He began exhibiting paintings in 1887, but it was when he studied under sculptor Frederick W. Ruckstall that his talent for modeling came to light. The Bronco Buster, copyrighted in 1895, was an instant success. NY foundries cast more than 275 authorized bronzes of that alone during his lifetime, and there were twenty-two different bronzes in total, almost all of western subjects.
illustration for The Song of Hiawatha' by Longfellow, 1891
Remington had moved to New Rochelle, and eventually to Ridgefield, Conn. where he died in 1909, aged forty-eight, from complications following an appendectomy. There is a Frederic Remington Art Museum in Ogdensburg, NY, housing numerous works and memorabilia.
'On the Southern Plains' oil on canvas, 1907 (originally titled, 'Cavalry in Sixties')

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Patti Sherry-Crews said...

What an interesting fellow! You've inspired me to look him up because I'm curious to learn more about him. I didn't realize Remington was related to Catlin, and though it's now obvious to me, I didn't connect him with the rifle Remingtons! And how did he create such works with so little formal training? Fascinating character! And he died so young! Thanks for sharing your visit to the exhibit with us.

Andrea Downing said...

I found him particularly interesting because of his misspent youth—it took him a while to find his calling. Also, I visited a Hockney exhibit the same day so the comparisons were fascinating — especially with Hockney’s AZ paintings

Kristy McCaffrey said...

Such a huge talent. I would love to own one of his castings but they're a little too expensive for me.

Andrea Downing said...

You and me both, Kristy!