Artist
Frederic Remington
American artist of the Old West

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Frederic Remington
American artist of the Old West
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Date of Birth

October 04, 1861

Place of Birth

Canton, New York, U.S.A.

Date of Death

December 26, 1909

Place of Death

Ridgefield, Connecticut, U.S.A.

More about Frederic Remington

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Contributor

Frederic Remington was a lucky kid. He got to play Cowboys and Injuns (as he liked to call them) well into his adult life.

He went to Yale and dropped out. Magazines like Harper’s and Colliers wanted him. This guy was hot stuff and he knew it. But boy, was he racist.

Born right into the Lincoln presidency in 1861, Remington grew up watching America evict its natives from their ancestral lands. Every year, a few new stars would be added to the American flag. From 1777 to 1960, flag-makers in the US had a tough time keeping up with the changes. Two centuries with a frequently updated flag must have been confusing for citizens. That’s probably why most Americans don’t understand each other. They’re busy choosing which version of America they’d rather live in.

While the nation was annexing its borders, Fred Remington was doing the same with his career. 25-years old and already featured in Harper’s weekly. This is after his stint as a sheep ranch farmer which he pursued for a year, subsequently blowing his entire inheritance. Sounds an awful lot like Teddy Roosevelt, right? That’s because they lived the same life. After the ranch episode, both their lives changed. In 1988, Remington got a 4-year contract with Harper’s Weekly. Roosevelt went on to fight corruption in the New York State Assembly. Remington clearly did well for himself, though not a well as Teddy.

One of Frederic’s earliest assignments had him accompanying an army unit on the pursuit of Geronimo. Remington built his repertoire based on these adventures. He created paintings, illustrations, sculptures, the works. The good ol’ American cowboy, and the savage Native, locked in an epic stand-off.

At Harper’s Weekly, he created the figure of the American hero. This guy has no past, knows no one, and at the end of the movie simply walks into the sunset. Yeah, he inspired all the other cowboy heroes that came after. The trope of the gun-wielding weirdo traveling the countryside, occasionally stopping to rescue a damsel in distress, is basically all Frederic Remington. Next time you’re watching the "Good, the Bad, and the Ugly," you’ll know who to thank.

Remington could’ve been a good guy, telling the story as it is. His employers had said, "He draws what he knows, and he knows what he draws.” Instead, he chose his white brethren. His lineage could boast the ultimate “American” family. He had all the “right” genes in all the “right” places. He was related to several civil war soldiers (including his dad), arms manufacturers (like Eliphalet Remington), artists (like George Catlin, nativist painter), and even George Washington (first POTUS) himself. Frederic Remington chose to be racist. He said, "I’ve got some Winchesters, and when the massacring begins which you speak of, I can get my share of ’em and what’s more I will. Jews—injuns—Chinamen—Italians—Huns, the rubbish of the earth I hate.” Ugh. He really was a terrible man. 

Remington’s work did well in the art market, in magazines, and even in retired army generals’ living rooms. It continues to give us insight into the horrors of the Wild West. Sure, Remington painted the native Americans to be ruthless and skilled warriors. His heroes and villains were equally matched, one less "savage" than the other. 

Remington died in 1909, after complications during an emergency appendectomy. He was 48-years old, leaving behind a wife who had left him once before. 

Sources

Sources

  1. "Frederic Remington - Google Arts & Culture." Google. Accessed June 30, 2019. https://artsandculture.google.com/exhibit/QR1upDRu
  2. Picone, Kiri. "The Crazy Evolution Of The American Flag." All That's Interesting. December 20, 2017. Accessed June 30, 2019. https://allthatsinteresting.com/evolution-american-flag
  3. Tolles, Thayer. "Frederic Remington (1861-1909)." Metmuseum.org. Accessed June 30, 2019. https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/remi/hd_remi.htm
  4. Foster, Feather Schwartz. "Roosevelt and Remington: The Cowboy and the Sculptor." Presidential History Blog. February 24, 2018. Accessed June 30, 2019. https://featherfoster.wordpress.com/2016/10/03/roosevelt-and-remington-t...
  5. "Biography of Frederic Remington." Frederic Remington - The Complete Works - Biography. Accessed June 30, 2019. https://www.frederic-remington.org/biography.html
  6. "The “Redskins” and the Twisted History of Depicting Native Americans." Minneapolis Institute of Art. November 05, 2013. Accessed June 30, 2019. https://new.artsmia.org/stories/the-redskins-and-the-twisted-history-of-...
  7. Harrison, Nicole. "Love Stories: Frederic and Eva Remington." Buffalo Bill Center of the West. February 14, 2017. Accessed June 30, 2019. https://centerofthewest.org/2017/02/14/love-stories-frederic-eva-remington/

Featured Content

Here is what Wikipedia says about Frederic Remington

Frederic Sackrider Remington (October 4, 1861 – December 26, 1909) was an American painter, illustrator, sculptor, and writer who specialized in depictions of the American Old West. His works are known for depicting the Western United States in the last quarter of the 19th century and featuring such images as cowboys, American Indians, and the US Cavalry.

Early life

Remington was born in Canton, New York, in 1861 to Seth Pierrepont Remington (1830–1880) and Clarissa (Clara) Bascom Sackrider (1836–1912).

His paternal family owned hardware stores and emigrated from Alsace-Lorraine in the early 18th century. His maternal family, of French Basque ancestry, came to America in the early 1600s and founded Windsor, Connecticut. Remington's father was a Union army colonel in the American Civil War, whose family had arrived in America from England in 1637. He was a newspaper editor and postmaster, and the staunchly Republican family was active in local politics. The Remingtons were horsemen. One of Remington's great-grandfathers, Samuel Bascom, was a saddle maker by trade. Remington's ancestors also fought in the French and Indian War, the American Revolution, and the War of 1812.

Remington was a cousin of Eliphalet Remington, founder of the Remington Arms Company, which is considered America's oldest gunmaker. He was also related to three famous mountain men: Jedediah Smith, Jonathan T. Warner, and Robert "Doc" Newell. Through the Warner side of his family, Remington was related to George Washington, the first US president.

Colonel Remington was away at war during most of the first four years of his son's life. After the war, he moved his family to Bloomington, Illinois for a brief time and was appointed editor of the Bloomington Republican, but the family returned to Canton in 1867. Remington was the only child of the marriage, and received constant attention and approval. He was an active child, large and strong for his age, who loved to hunt, swim, ride, and go camping. He was a poor student though, particularly in math, which did not bode well for his father's ambitions for his son to attend West Point. He began to make drawings and sketches of soldiers and cowboys at an early age.

The family moved to Ogdensburg, New York when Remington was eleven and he attended Vermont Episcopal Institute, a church-run military school, where his father hoped discipline would rein in his son's lack of focus and perhaps lead to a military career. Remington took his first drawing lessons at the Institute. He then transferred to another military school where his classmates found the young Remington to be a pleasant fellow, a bit careless and lazy, good-humored, and generous of spirit but definitely not soldier material. He enjoyed making caricatures and silhouettes of his classmates. At 17, he wrote to his uncle of his modest ambitions, "I never intend to do any great amount of labor. I have but one short life and do not aspire to wealth or fame in a degree which could only be obtained by an extraordinary effort on my part." He imagined a career for himself as a journalist, with art as a sideline.

Remington attended the art school at Yale University and studied under John Henry Niemeyer. Remington was the only male student in his first year. He found that football and boxing were more interesting than the formal art training, particularly drawing from casts and still life objects. He preferred action drawing and his first published illustration was a cartoon of a "bandaged football player" for the student newspaper, Yale Courant. Though he was not a star player, his participation on the strong Yale football team was a great source of pride for Remington and his family. He left Yale in 1879 to tend to his ailing father, who had tuberculosis. His father died a year later, at 50, receiving respectful recognition from the citizens of Ogdensburg. Remington's Uncle Mart secured a good-paying clerical job for his nephew in Albany, New York, and Remington would return home on weekends to see his girlfriend Eva Caten. After the rejection of his engagement proposal to Eva by her father, Remington became a reporter for his uncle's newspaper and went on to other short-lived jobs.

Living off his inheritance and modest work income, Remington refused to go back to art school and instead spent time camping and enjoying himself. At 19, he made his first trip west, going to Montana, at first to buy a cattle operation then a mining interest but realized that he did not have sufficient capital for either. In the American West of 1881, he saw the vast prairies, the quickly shrinking bison herds, the still unfenced cattle, and the last major confrontations of US Cavalry and Native American tribes, scenes he had imagined since his childhood. He also hunted grizzly bears with Montague Stevens in New Mexico in 1895. Though the trip was undertaken as a lark, it gave Remington a more authentic view of the West than some of the later artists and writers who followed in his footsteps, such as N. C. Wyeth and Zane Grey, who arrived twenty-five years later when much of the mythic West had already slipped into history. From that first trip, Harper's Weekly printed Remington's first published commercial effort, a re-drawing of a quick sketch on wrapping paper that he had mailed back east. In 1883, Remington went to rural Kansas, south of the city of Peabody near the tiny community of Plum Grove, to try his hand at the booming sheep ranching and wool trade, as one of the "holiday stockmen", rich young easterners out to make a quick killing as ranch owners. He invested his entire inheritance but found ranching to be a rough, boring, isolated occupation which deprived him of the finer things he was used to from East Coast life, and the real ranchers thought of him as lazy. In 1884, he sold his land.

Remington continued sketching, but at this point his results were still cartoonish and amateur. After less than a year, after he sold his ranch, he went home. After acquiring more capital from his mother, he returned to Kansas City to start a hardware business, but due to an alleged swindle, it failed, and he reinvested his remaining money as a silent, half-owner of a saloon. He went home to marry Eva Caten in 1884, and they returned to Kansas City immediately. She was unhappy with his saloon life and was unimpressed by the sketches of saloon inhabitants that Remington regularly showed her. When his real occupation became known, she left him and returned to Ogdensburg. With his wife gone and with business doing badly, Remington started to sketch and paint in earnest, and bartered his sketches for essentials.

He soon had enough success selling his paintings to locals to see art as a real profession. Remington returned home again, his inheritance gone but his faith in his new career secured, reunited with his wife, and moved to Brooklyn. He began studies at the Art Students League of New York and significantly bolstered his fresh though still rough technique. His timing was excellent, as newspaper interest in the dying West was escalating. He submitted illustrations, sketches, and other works for publication with Western themes to Collier's and Harper's Weekly, as his recent Western experiences (highly exaggerated) and his hearty, breezy "cowboy" demeanor gained him credibility with the eastern publishers looking for authenticity. His first full-page cover under his own name appeared in Harper's Weekly on January 9, 1886, when he was twenty-five. With financial backing from his Uncle Bill, Remington was able to pursue his art career and support his wife.

Several of his relatives were also artists, including Indian portrait artist George Catlin, cowboy sculptor Earl W. Bascom, and (also on the Bascom side) Frank Tenney Johnson, the "father of western moonlight painting".

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Frederic Remington.