Biography - Frederic Remington - Part I
James Chillman, former Director of the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, said of Frederic Remington, "Some people tell stories so well that their method of telling becomes identified with themselves."
"I paint for boys," Remington said, "boys from ten to seventy. I knew the wild riders and the vacant lands were about to vanish forever...and the more I considered the subject, the bigger the forever loomed. Without knowing how to do it, I began to record some facts around me, and the more I looked the more the panorama unfolded."
July, 1907, President Roosevelt said of Remington, "He is of course, one of the most typical artists we have ever had, and he has portrayed a most characteristic and yet vanished type of American life. The soldier, the cowboy and rancher, the Indian, the horses and the cattle of the plains, will live in his pictures and bronzes, I verily believe, for all time."
Frederic Sackrider Remington was born in Canton, NY, October 1861, the son of a newspaper owner who established the successful St. Lawrence Plaindealer in 1856. Two months following his son's birth, Seth Pierre Remington would leave his family and business to help establish Swain's Cavalry, a regiment that won fame as the Fighting 11th New York . After four years of skirmishing in western campaigns, Seth returned home a distinguished lieutenant colonel and resumed his business.
An indifferent student, Frederic's boyhood enthusiasm centered on caring for the local fire-wagon horse team, swimming, boxing, football, and his sketch-book of horses, soldiers, cowboys, wild Indians, and imagined battles. A Yale Art professor described him as "a queer looking student, frequently having his face and legs bandaged."
Eighteen-eighty was a cruel year. Remington lost his father, left school, failed at several clerical jobs, and fell in love with a young woman named Eva Caten. Unfortunately, Eva's father denied the courtship because of Frederic's uncertain financial position. Broken, the young man fled Westward, to free his spirit and make the fortune needed to win his love.
In his twenties, Remington worked as a cowboy, rancher, gold panner, saloon keeper, store merchant, and as an Indian mediator-all the time, sketching and painting. The artist had discovered his medium and journal's like Harper's Weekly quickly discovered him. He returned to New York and married Eva.
Remington worked with in oil, water color, wash, and pen-and ink. Many of his artworks were based on saddles, boots, uniforms, Indian gear, weapons, and other objects he collected in his western travels-recreating cowboys in his New York studio. In 1890, he illustrated Longfellow's epic limited-edition poem, The Song of Hiawatha. In 1893, ninety-six of his pictures sold at an American Art Association Show for the amazing sum of $7,008. October 1, 1895, his first sculpture, Bronco Buster, was copyrighted. Three weeks later Harper's Weekly devoted a full page to the two foot tall bronze model masterpiece. Remington rejoiced in his new success. "I have always had a feeling for mud," he said.
Remington's one monumental bronze, The Cowboy, was unveiled in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, June 20, 1908.
Remington and Eva achieved fame and wealth in their lifetime. In 1908, at age 48, Frederic was made an Associate Member of the National Academy of Design. Sadly, he died a year later of appendicitis.
During the last 20 years of his life, Frederic Remington worked at a frantic pace. He authored several books and scores of magazine articles. He served as a war correspondent. He modeled 24 bronze sculptures and over 2,700 pictures that are still being copied today.
We will talk collecting and seeing authentic Remington art next week. Until then, happy trails.