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Frederic Remington
1861-1909

Back to Realism / Naturalism

Frederic Remington was an American painter, sculptor, and writer, born in Canton, New York, far from cowboy country, and would become the most famous of all western artists. Shortly after his birth, however, his father left the newspaper he edited and joined the Union cavalry; so the youngster grew up around horses and began to draw them from the time he could wrap his fingers around a pencil and push it where he wanted it to go. 

Like most artists-to-be, Fred Remington was obsessed with drawing and made almost endless sketches of his world in his notebooks, on the margins of books, around the edges of his school papers. And almost always a horse figured somewhere in the drawing - usually a horse going at full gallop, for the boy liked plenty of action in his art. 

  • USA 1940. Frederic Remington. 

USA 1940. Frederic Remington. 

USA 1961. Cachet from a First Day Cover commemorating the centennial of Frederic Remington.

From the earliest drawings, he showed galloping horses with all four feet off the ground, a practice that won him the ridicule of critics who insisted that a horse always had at least one foot on the ground. It was not till high-speed photography froze galloping horses in midstep that the world discovered the young boy had seen truer than the most experienced horsemen of his day, for the horse can indeed be caught with all four feet off the ground. 
  • USA 1961. Cachet from a First Day Cover commemorating the centennial of Frederic Remington. The cachet shows a self-portrait and a black/white reproduction of Remington's painting "Coming and Going of the Pony Express". 

Click here to see colour image. The link will open in a new window. 

To his mother's dismay, Fred was a terrible student. What time he stole from his eternal sketching he spent not at study, but at sports, especially riding. His father enjoyed the boy's art and encouraged him, but his mother wanted him to become a good student and later a respectable citizen, preferably a businessman. She wanted him to have no connections in the artistic world which she considered akin to the rootless world of the gypsies. 

Somehow, bad a student as he was, he was accepted at Yale and was one of only two students in the newly founded art school. The other student was Poultney Bigelow, who, years later as the editor of the then important magazine Outing, was delighted to discover on his desk some pictures that were, in his words, "the real thing, the unspoiled native genius dealing with Mexican ponies, cowboys, cactus, lariats, and sombreros." It was only after he read the signature that he discovered he had studied with the artist at Yale and had failed, at the time, to recognize his genius. It was Bigelow who gave Remington his first break as a commercial artist. 

USA 1940. First Day Cover cancelled 30th September 1940 in Canton, N.Y., Remington's birthplace. 

Remington is famous for the lively scenes, in paint and in bronze, of the Old West that form the subject matter of most of his works. In the Spanish-American War he served as a war correspondent and artist. Among his paintings, admired for their forthright and unsentimental naturalism, are The Outlier (1909, Brooklyn Museum, New York City) and Cavalry Charge on the Southern Plains (1907, Metropolitan Museum, New York City). His love of the West was mirrored in his paintings and sculptures, which paralleled the nation's fascination with the closing of the American frontier. 

USA 1961. Frederic Remington: A portion of the painting "Smoke Signal". Nicaragua 1976. Frederic Remington: Full painting of "Smoke Signal".
  • USA 1961. Frederic Remington: A portion of the painting "Smoke Signal". Property of the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. 

  • Nicaragua 1976. Frederic Remington: Full painting of "Smoke Signal". The portion featured on the US-issue is the left part. Scan by courtesy of Rodney Cork (Australia). Scott #1028.

USA 1961. First Day Cover, cancelled on 4th October 1961, at the 100th anniversary of Frederic Remington

Remington's father died when the artist was eighteen, leaving him a small sum of money, and in 1881 he went to Montana. The next year Harper's Weekly published a picture of "Cowboys of Arizona: Roused by a Scout." They had thought so little of the original sketch that they had an artist redo it and it was signed, "Drawn by W. A. Rogers from a sketch by Frederic Remington." Hearing that a Yale schoolmate was sheep ranching in the West, in 1883 Remington used some of his inheritance to buy 160 acres near his friend, just outside of Peabody, Kansas. Being Frederic Remington, he first bought horses; only after being well-mounted on a mare named Terra Cotta did he buy several hundred sheep. 
 
He wrote home that same year a letter with the startling phrase," - man just shot down the street - must go.", but the newspapers of the time record no such shooting. 

For the rest of his life, Remington indulged a lively imagination that pictured his life as more eventful than it probably was. His art itself rarely shows a tranquil scene, but almost always pictures some violent act happening in a romantic setting. Though the details of his western art were strikingly accurate, the adventures they portrayed were usually imaginary. 

  • USA 2000. Stamp from the pane "American Illustrators". Frederic Remington: "A Dash for the Timber", painted 1889. Belongs to the Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas. Click here to see the full pane. The link will open in a new window. The stamp is located in the bottom row, left. The stamp shows only a portion of the original painting. Click here to see the entire painting. The link will open in a new window. 

USA 2000. Stamp from the pane "American Illustrators". Frederic Remington: "A Dash for the Timber", painted 1889.

USA 1898. Trans-Mississippi Issue. Frederic Remington: "Troops Guarding Wagon Train". 

USA 1898. Trans-Mississippi Issue. Frederic Remington: "Western Mining Prospector". 

USA 1998. Bi-Colour Re-issue of the Trans-Mississippi Stamp Designs. Souvenir sheet.

Remington did not turn to sculpture until midway in his career as an illustrator and painter. It was a natural extension of his primary area of interest for his first bronze to be "The Bronco Buster" in 1895. Between that year and his death in 1909, he produced only 21 complete subjects, yet his career in bronze probably had more impact on the American scene than that of the sculptures of the more prolific. Along with the Remington Studio Collection and the reconstruction of his studio, castings of "The Bronco Buster" and "Coming Through the Rye" are on permanent display in the Whitney Gallery of Western Art of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, WY. 

Visitors to the White House in Washington DC are quickly treated to the art of Frederic Remington, including his famous bronze sculpture "Coming Through the Rye". The most complicated of his sculptures, it features cowboys, mounted on horseback, galloping four abreast. The sculpture was completed in 1902, only seven years before the artist's death, and is daring for their technical skill in suspending large figures on slim supports -- in this case on the hooves of the horses. 
  • USA 1981. Frederic Remington: "Coming Through the Rye". 

USA 1981. Frederic Remington: "Coming Through the Rye". 

In 1890, Remington, in his rush to record the last days of the frontier West, joined the U. S. Army cavalry in their campaign against the warring Sioux Indians in the Dakotas, the same campaign that included the extermination of General Custer's command. Despite the load of fat Remington took into the field, he kept up with the tough cavalrymen, riding sixty miles in one day on a single horse, an animal that must have been a powerful brute to carry 240 pounds over that grinding route. Remington and his troop had several encounters with hostile Sioux and the artist carried a rifle throughout the campaign. He missed the last Indian battle of the West, but later rode to the camp of the Seventh United States Cavalry to talk with the survivors of that battle, the Battle of Wounded Knee.

Three days later, on the train going back East, Remington read of the death of the young officer who had been his comrade during the campaign. Finally, there was no doubt; Remington had indeed been around some serious shooting and nobody could charge the scenes of that last Indian fight to his imagination. After gaining great fame in the East, Remington died in Ridgefield, Connecticut, in 1909 at the age of forty-eight. Among the books he wrote and illustrated are Pony Tracks (1895), Crooked Trails (1898), and The Way of an Indian (1906). 

Other than the stamps shown on this page, there are three more stamps with paintings by Frederic Remington: 

As I do not have these stamps, I have given instead links to prints of the paintings. The links will open in a new window. 

Although the following stamps are not directly related to Remington's person, they are still related to his colourful story: The Pony Express, Buffalo Bill, and Sitting Bull. The famed Army scout, buffalo hunter, Pony Express rider and showman, William Frederick "Buffalo Bill" Cody, was responsible for the founding and early development of the town of Cody, WY. The flamboyant Western hero used his popular acclaim to attract investors to the project. The community is now home to the rambling Buffalo Bill Historical Center, housing numerous major collections, including The Whitney Museum of Western Art, Cody Firearms Museum, Plains of Indian Museum, Draper Museum of Natural History and the original Buffalo Bill Museum.  

The design of the Buffalo Bill-stamp was based upon an engraved profile used on a dining-car menu for a special Denver-to-Cody train, and the stamps were printed in a sepia-like maroon, the colour found in the tintype photographs of the era of the "Great Scout". 

USA 1988. William Frederick "Buffalo Bill" Cody. 

USA 1960. Pony Express Centennial.

USA 1960. Pony Express Centennial, cut square from stationery.

The Buffalo Bill Memorial Museum in Cody was given a Frederic Remington collection of 3,000 pictures, valued at $125,000, by Henry Coe, a resident of Cody. 

Remington's work illustrates the history of the American West from the sixteenth century to the death of Chief Sitting Bull. 

Sitting Bull's fights with the Army occurred as early as 1863. By 1867, he had become the principal chief of the entire Sioux nation. He refused to attend the peace conference for the Treaty of 1868 or to sign it, but his judgment was quickly vindicated when the government reneged on its promises. The flood of miners into the Black Hills after the discovery of gold flew in the face of the treaty provision that the area would remain in Sioux possession forever. 

  • USA 1989. The renowned chief and medicine man of the Hunkpapa Sioux, Sitting Bull. Originally intended as a 37-cent first-class-rate stamp for double-weight letters, it was changed to the 28-cent denomination prior to issuance to satisfy a new rate for postcards sent overseas. 

USA 1989. The renowned chief and medicine man of the Hunkpapa Sioux, Sitting Bull.

With the Cheyenne and the Arapahoe, he waged successful battles at the Rosebud and Little Big Horn. Following the Custer Massacre, Sitting Bull and his followers escaped into Canada, leaving behind a message: "You scare all the buffalo away. I want to hunt in this place. I want you to turn back from here. If you don't I will fight you again". The move to Canada lasted only four years, when famine forced their return to the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota, In 1885, the great chief joined Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. 

Sources and links: 

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