Saturday Art: Frederic Remington
(Picture courtesy of peterjr1961 at flickr.com.)
Another in a series of recognizable art that we see in our surroundings, Frederic Remington chanced on the American West as it was ending. His paintings and sculptures epitomize the romance of western society intruding on tribal lands and portrayed it with hauntingly striking images that gave rise to later imaginations about the country’s unlimited, unfenced, vastness.
In 1886, Remington was sent to Arizona by Harper’s Weekly on a commission as an artist-correspondent to cover the government’s war against Geronimo. Although he never caught up with Geronimo, Remington did acquire many authentic artifacts to be used later as props, and made many photos and sketches valuable for later paintings. He also made notes on the true colors of the West, such as “shadows of horses should be a cool carmine & Blue”, to supplement the black-and-white photos. Ironically, art critics later criticized his palette as “primitive and unnatural” even though it was based on actual observation.
Remington was one of the first American artists to illustrate the true gait of the horse in motion (along with Thomas Eakins), as validated by the famous sequential photographs of Eadweard Muybridge. Previously, horses in full gallop were usually depicted with all four legs pointing out, like “hobby horses”. The galloping horse became Remington’s signature subject, copied and interpreted by many Western artists who followed him, adopting the correct anatomical motion. Though criticized by some for his use of photography, Remington often created depictions that slightly exaggerated natural motion to satisfy the eye. He wrote, “the artist must know more than the camera… (the horse must be) incorrectly drawn from the photographic standpoint (to achieve the desired effect).”
Also, noteworthy was Remington’s invention of “cowboy” sculpture. From his inaugural piece, The Broncho Buster (1895), he created an art form which is still very popular among collectors of Western art.
Remington’s vision of pioneer nobility colored writing and artwork for many decades after his visits and works.
Presently I am out of town, will try to check in during the day but not at my computer while traveling.