Frederick Remington Biography – artist, illustrator, sculptor, painter…The works of 19th-century American sculptor and illustrator Frederic Remington (1861-1909) recall the rough-hewn frontier life of the American West.
Frederic Remington is the artist most closely identified with subjects of the American West during the closing decades of the 19th century. His drawings, paintings, sculptures, and writings present realistic and highly detailed depictions of many aspects of frontier life, including cowboys taming broncos, cavalry soldiers engaged in battle, and Native American warriors and scouts.
Name: Frederic Remington
Variant Name: Frederic Sackrider Remington
Birth Date: October 1, 1861
Death Date: December 26, 1909
Place of Birth: Canton, New York, United States
Place of Death: Ridgefield, Connecticut, United States
Occupations: illustrator, painter, sculptor, writer
According to Harold McCracken in his Frederic Remington’s Own West, “The name of Frederic Remington has become synonymous with the realistic portrayal of our Old West. His impressive paintings, drawings and works of sculpture of the early day frontiersmen, cowboys and Indians are today well established as pictorial documentations of the most colorful and virile, as well as the most popular chapter in American history.”
The art of Frederic Remington defined the American West during his lifetime and played a major role in creating the popular image of the West that persists today. In both painting and sculpture, he portrayed the action and drama of the West. Remington’s subjects, the military, the cowboy and the American Indian, centered on conflict. In some of his best works, conflict was not only the subject, but also created the aesthetic tension of the artwork.
Although closely identified with the American West, Remington actually spent much of his life in the East. Born October 4, 1861 in Canton, New York, Frederic was the only child of Seth Pierre Remington and Clara Bascomb Sackrider Remington. Remington attended the Yale College School of the Fine Arts for three semesters beginning in 1878 and also played football on the Yale team.
After his father died, he left school and started working as a reporter. In 1881 he made his first trip west to Montana Territory and subsequently he sold his first sketch of cowboys to Harper’s Weekly. In 1883 he bought and worked a sheep ranch in Peabody, Kansas.
On October 1, 1884 Remington married Eva Adele Caten of Gloversville, New York. His ranch and other business ventures in Kansas City, Missouri, being unsuccessful, Remington ended his only Western residence and then traveled in the Southwest.
By the mid-1890s, Remington became one of the most popular and successful illustrators of the age. His drawings of cavalry troops, cowboys, and Indians filled popular periodicals such as Harper’s Weekly and Collier’s. His illustrational drawings trained him to use line effectively.
Painting illustrations in black and white, such as The Mess Tent at Night, also guided him in controlling values, the degree of light and darkness. His success as an illustrator earned him the freedom to define his own themes, and he matured as an artist.
However, always looking to develop his artistic abilities, Remington turned his attention away from illustration, and began concentrating on painting and sculpture. To gain knowledge of his subjects, Remington began a pattern of annual trips to the West.
At his home in New Rochelle, New York, Remington created a Western environment in his studio by surrounding himself with collected objects. The Whitney Gallery of Western Art has a comprehensive reconstruction of Remington’s magnificent studio.
In his early career as a painter, Remington took a number of opportunities to paint portraits of westerners at work. In 1889, Remington accepted a commission from Milton E. Milner to show him and an associate, Judge Kennon, out searching for new cattle range in Montana Territory.
Prospecting for Cattle Range is an example of Remington’s early style, featuring realistic details, tight use of line and clearly articulated shapes.
Remington succeeded in both two-dimensional and three-dimensional artworks. His bronze sculpture, The Broncho Buster, represents a human struggle to control nature, and has become a classic symbol of the American West. Stirred by action, Remington designed his sculptures to feature movement – challenging the limits of the medium.
Later in his career, Remington experimented with the perception of color. He lightened his palette and placed his colors as they would be affected by light. After 1900, Remington received critical acclaim for his tonal paintings of night scenes.
Frederic Remington was 48 years old when he died December 26, 1909 from complications following an appendectomy. During his short life, Remington produced more than 3,000 drawings and paintings, 22 bronze sculptures – cast in editions, two novels – one of which was adapted to the stage – and over 100 magazine articles and stories.