Showcasing America’s Wild West: The Life Of Frederic Remington

When most people think of the American Wild West, images of trigger-happy cowboys, proud and fierce Indians, horses, and large-scale gunfights quickly come to mind. These iconic images now synonymous with the Wild West are partly thanks to the paintings and artwork of Frederic Remington.

Adept as a painter and sculptor, Remington showcased life in the Wild West with a dash of gritty realism and an abundance of romantic idealism. His paintings and illustrations convey a wide scope of exciting Western themes from both the Cowboy and Native American points of view.

Whether it was a painting of a high-stakes shootout or something more mundane, Remington’s art is one of the best sources for daily life in the Wild West. With all that being said, let’s look at some of the most famous Frederic Remington paintings and investigate why he loved the Wild West so much.

Self-Portrait On A Horse (1890)

Self Portrait On A Horse – Frederic Remington

Frederic Remington differs from most painters because he lived what he painted. This personal experience gave him a direct and insider perspective of life on the American frontier. He had completed several campaigns to places like California and Mexico and had built a reputation as an authority on the region and its affairs.

Frederic Remington, the cowboy, was a title the painter cherished. He undoubtedly loved his job as a frontline artist, travelling around the United States and depicting the people’s historical events and daily affairs. This inherent love of the source material radiates from his paintings.

Frederic Remington’s art features many fantastic portraits of Cowboys and Indians. Some of his best cowboy portraits are The Lookout, The Flight, and The Cowboy. While on the flip side, some of his best Indian portraits include, Ridden Down, The Outlier, and The Blanket Signal.

The Last Stand (1896)

Perhaps Frederic Remington’s greatest achievement as an artist was his ability to capture the intense nature at the heart of the American West. As a result, many famous Frederic Remington paintings involve scenes of life-or-death encounters that took place fairly regularly.  

As a war chronicler, Remington was present during many military affairs and became well-known for his gripping paintings of intense gunfights. These epic paintings are among Remington’s best and had the most influence in shaping the Hollywood image of the cowboy.

In the Last Stand and other paintings of a similar theme, such as A Dash For The Timber and Fight For The Waterhole, Remington wonderfully showcases the bravery and camaraderie it took to survive life in the West.

A Taint On The Wind (1906)

Another facet of Remington’s art that critics have highly praised is his impressive recreations of horses, particularly horses in motion. Remington’s attention to detail in this regard no doubt came from a place of admiration, love, and respect for the animal.

In almost every one of Remington’s Western paintings, a horse is featured in one fashion or another. Often they are the main character of the painting, as seen here in A Taint On The Wind. These paintings also show just how important horses were to people’s lives back then, before the invention of the car.

Remington claimed to be relatively self-thought and that he painted almost all of his paintings from memory. When you have terrifyingly exciting encounters such as gun shootouts, high-speed horse chases, and wagon raids, the experience stays with you.

What An Unbranded Cow Has Cost (1895)

Life in the West wasn’t quite as glamorous as it seems in many of Remington’s Western paintings, and surviving in the blazing deserts of Texas, Arizona, California, and other places in the American West, was often a story of misery and horror.

Both Frederic Remington and others have well-documented the war between the European settlers and the Native Americans. However, this wasn’t the only war in America during the 18th and 19th centuries.

There was the Civil War, The Mexican War, and the lesser-known Cattle war, to name a few. What An Unbranded Cow Has Cost depicts the stark aftermath of one of these battles. The dead and dying lay scattered around the barren landscape and acted as a reminder of just how brutal life in the West truly was.

The Herd Boy 

The Herd Boy – Frederic Remington

Speaking of the unforgiving harshness of life in America’s West at times, the landscape itself provided arguably the harshest obstacles and challenges for anybody who hoped to make the wild territory their home.

Despite being unbearably hot for many months of the year, many parts of the West were equally as bitterly cold during the Winter. Many dangerous animals, such as bears, mountain lions, and snakes, were commonplace.

The Herd Boy perfectly embodies this daily battle between man and nature. In the painting, a lone Native American Boy sits atop a half-starved horse with a snow-covered wasteland as their backdrop. The paintings poignantly represent the unbreakable human spirit and the beauty found therein.

Conclusion

Frederic Remington’s art and famous paintings showcase not only the scenery of the American Wild West but also the daily affairs of the people there and, on a deeper level, the human traits of bravery, courage, will, and determination. To learn more about Remington, the artist, and his incredible paintings, check out our other articles.

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