You have probably heard that a picture is worth a thousand words. But you can’t really grasp the essence of it unless you come across an illustration that communicates a story, a message, or a feeling.
What is most meaningful in art has nothing to do with the canvas, structure or the hue of colors. In fact, it is what contribution a picture makes to our lives and what sensations and imaginations it sparks.
There are many legitimate methods to measure the importance of an art piece. But none that weigh the substance of a painting or illustration.
Frederic Remington Biography
Frederic Remington’s legacy is an example of such an art form that communicates feelings to its viewers. It arouses their interest in unknown subjects and holds their attention with the timeless illustration of Native Americans of the Old West.
“I knew the wild riders and the vacant land 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.” – Frederic Remington
Frederic Remington was an American painter, illustrator, sculptor and writer. His work became famous for his realistic depictions of life in the Old West. Frederick was born on October 4, 1861 in Canton, New York to a prominent family.
His parents, Seth Pierrepont Remington and Clarissa Bascom Sackrider, had moved from Alsace-Lorraine in the early 1700’s. His father had been a colonel in the civil war and became a newspaper editor and postmaster in America. Frederic grew up in a family that was active in local politics and heard tales from his father of his time in the cavalry.
It seems that Remington’s inspiration to draw cowboys and horses can be traced back to his family bloodlines. One of his great grandfathers, Samuel Bascom, was a saddle maker and the Remingtons were fine horsemen.
Moreover, Remington was also related to an Indian portrait artist, George Catlin and cowboy sculptor Earl W. Bascom. So, from early years of his life, we can observe that he developed an interest in drawing and sketching soldiers in uniform on horseback.
To top it all off, Remington’s father’s newspaper business taught him how to capture a story and illustrate the romantic aspect of the West as well as its struggles.
When he was young, Remington tried various avenues before making up his mind to find his peace in art. He was in and out of college in two years and then tried his luck at business. But most of his business ventures lasted only a few months. He studied art at Yale University from 1878-1880 and then briefly at the Art Students League of New York in 1886.
During the years of his education, he would travel far and wide and devoted himself to depicting Native Americans.
Most of his illustrations were of cowboys, soldiers, horses and other simple aspects of life on the plains. On his adventures, he would sketch and photograph earnestly, collecting material to take back to his studio in New York City and lay it out on a canvas.
In the fall of 1884, Remington married his sweetheart, Eva Adele Caten. The couple soon went on to live in Brooklyn, New York. But due to business failures and other difficulties in life, Eva left him and returned to her father’s house. For several weeks, Remington wandered in the desert, trying to deal with the absence of his wife. But soon, he returned back to New York to assume his due responsibilities, claim his love for art and his wife.
It wasn’t long after his return that he solicited work with Harper’s Weekly with the help of his portfolio of illustrations of the West. The initial success boosted his determination to prove himself as an artist. This time of Remington’s life can be marked as the bloom of his art career that transformed him into the most prolific artist of his time.
In 1887, he received a commission to do eighty-three illustrations for a book by Theodore Roosevelt, Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail. He produced 3000 signed paintings and sketches altogether. Most of his work was illustrations but he turned many into art as he turned away from the publishing world and resumed his passion in masterful art.
Types of Work
Frederic Remington’s artwork is about the depiction of life in the West, people’s struggles and their stories. He does not touch his personal experience on the journeys in his work and strictly adopts Western Americans as his subjects. In his career of twenty-five years, he produced over 3000 drawings and paintings, twenty-two bronze sculptures, a novel, a Broadway play and over one hundred articles and stories.
The “Marlboro Man” in the cigarette advertisement was one of Remington’s illustrations. Remington’s work gave substance to the American stories that the nation held dear, including independence, bravery, and heroism. Although he himself resided in the West for only a year, through his work he inspired a love for the West in people.
Some of his most famous works include:
- A Dash for the Timber
- The Fall of the Cowboy
- Fight for the Waterhole
- Aiding a Comrade
- The Scout: Friends or Foes?
- Cold Morning on the Range
- An Indian Trapper
Subject Matter of Remington’s Work
The subject matter of Remington’s work is what captured his interests most. This mostly included soldiers, horses, cowboys and the western frontier. With his skillful techniques and remarkable work, he was successful in transforming his interests into the interests of the public.
Throughout his career, the focus of his subject matter remained on the people and animals of the West with landscapes being of secondary importance. He used his artistic skills to depict raw human action and the underlying stories.
Death and Legacy
In the December of 1909, Frederic Remington met an untimely death due to a ruptured appendix. He died at the age of forty-eight at the peak of his career. Remington was fond of adventures and ourneys to the West. He would often take others with him on rides, hikes, fishing and hunting trips.
Among other things, Remington deeply admired the undaunted approach toward the elements of frontier life. His legacy continues to inspire and instill love in others for the rustic life of the West.