Frederic Remington’s Special Love of the American West

For every artist, living a life that embodies the themes within their artwork is the ultimate dream. For American Wild West painter Frederic Remington, this dream was a reality. Not only did he paint the lifestyle of the American cowboy and many of the historical deeds surrounding them, but he also lived them firsthand.

Practically all of his paintings depict real-life events in one facet or another. Although some may be glamoured and romanticized, many of them portray scenes that Remington himself witnessed during his time as a magazine illustrator and war correspondent.

As well as being a beloved painter, Remington was also an accomplished sculptor. Both Frederic Remington’s art and sculptures showcase an inherent love for the American West. The following is a presentation of some of the most famous Frederic Remington paintings and an investigation into why he loved the Wild West so much.

A Dash for the Timber (1889)

Frederic Remington – A Dash for the Timber

When you think of the Wild West, the first thing that probably comes to mind is epic gun fights and high-speed chases on horseback. Well, Frederic Remington’s intense painting called “A Dash for the Timber” exhibits the exhilarating excitement of both in one fabulous painting.

This striking scene is like something straight out of a Hollywood movie. In the painting, eight cowboys gallop at full speed in retreat from a group of Native Americans in hot pursuit. Smoke fills the air from the fire of the cowboy’s rifles and revolvers as they attempt to make their escape.

This epic Remington western painting can be seen as an early source of inspiration for many of the Wild West movies that followed. Remington’s brilliance for portraying horses is also on full display here as each seems to exhibit their own unique personality as their hooves kick up a cloud of dust in their sprint to safety. This is one painting that is definitely worth checking out.

Self-Portrait On a Horse (1890)

By 1890, Remington was well established as one of the leading illustrators and chroniclers of America’s Western frontier. He had undergone many campaigns to the American West and gained a reputation as a regional expert and a bonafide cowboy.

This idea of Frederic Remington, the cowboy, is no better exhibited than in his 1890 self-portrait. Sitting proudly on a grand white steed with his rifle in tow and adorned in all the familiar trimmings of a cowboy, Remington looks the part of a bucking bronco.

It might seem far-fetched, but Remington did indeed live the lifestyle of a cowboy and truly enjoyed his life of adventures. This romanticized depiction of a lone ranger sitting larger than life against the backdrop of the harsh environment of the Western plateaus would often reappear throughout Remington’s Western paintings.

The Old Stage Coach (1901)

In another famous Frederic Remington painting titled “The Old Stage Coach”, a perfect example of the romanticism often associated with the rugged way of life in the American West. This romanticism has captivated not just American audiences of today but also the imagination of people worldwide. As a result, Western movies are some of the most popular of all time.

In Frederic Remington’s art, this aspect of capturing one’s imagination leaps off the canvas, and there’s no doubt that Remington himself was fully under the spell of the Wild West. Perhaps no other time in history is as raw as America’s settling.

In the painting “The Old Stage Coach”, a moonlit sky sets the scene as a lone stagecoach journey’s through a grassy prairie. The pace of the horses pulling the coach and the silhouette of the passenger’s rifle suggest that the coach is being chased as aptly embodies the danger and excitement of the Wild West.

Fight for the Waterhole (1903)

Life in the American West was difficult, and life expectancy was often short. This is because there were so many different avenues to kill anybody bold enough to stake their claim there. These threats ranged from attacks from Native Americans looking to protect their lands to the harsh environment and landscape of the West.

“Fight for the Waterhole” is intimate and immediate threats are made abundantly clear. In the painting, three cowboys take cover in a waterhole with their rifles close at hand.

Although somewhat romanticized, this painting depicts a far more realistic aspect of life in the West. The cowboys have to fight for their survival from both outside threats looking to claim the waterhole as their own, as well as the harsh desert itself. It is a stark reminder of the struggle for survival and the toughness of the people who called this place home.

The Outlier (1909)

Many of Frederic Remington’s paintings also included events from the Native American perspective. In much of Remington’s later artwork, there is a particular focus on the plight of the Native Americans. In all fairness, though, Remington did the native population justice throughout his career.

He dedicated dozens of paintings to the indigenous people, undoubtedly fascinated and greatly respected their ways and culture. However, none of all his Native American-themed paintings are more famous than his painting “The Outlier”.

It beautifully and poignantly personifies a people who were being slaughtered and driven from their homeland. The lone warrior with the moon at his back in the dark wilderness represents a people whose way of life was quickly slipping away into darkness. It is one of Frederic Remington’s last paintings and one of his most Impressionist styles.

The Bottom Line

For Frederic Remington, being an artist and being a cowboy went hand in hand. His Western paintings are a wonderful tribute to a life spent on the frontiers of America. The more you learn about Remington’s art, the more appreciation you will have for the American Wild West. 

Adrianna Tori

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