Frederic Remington

Artist Biography

Painter, sculptor and illustrator; famous for mythic scenes of the American West

By Eve Perry

Remington’s dynamic portrayals of the adventurous lives of Western frontiersmen made him an immensely popular illustrator, painter and sculptor and were instrumental in constructing America’s national identity.

I. Biography
II. Chronology
III. Collections
IV. Exhibitions
V. Memberships
VI. Notes
VII. Suggested Resources

I. Biography

Frederic Remington was born in Canton, New York in 1861. He was sent to high school at the Highland Military Academy in Worcester, Massachusetts by his father, a Civil War veteran, in the hopes that the boy would consider a career in the military. While at Highland, Remington determined that he was not cut out for the military and began to follow his interest in art instead. But the young artist remained enamored with war-related imagery; his favorite subjects to draw were soldiers and along with them cowboys, Indians and outlaws of the American West. After graduating high school, Remington attended the Yale College School of Art. The death of his father caused him to return home after only three semesters. Years later, when his career as an illustrator was getting underway, he briefly attended the Art Students League.

Remington is now known as one of the foremost artists of the American West, but aside from a short stint as a sheep rancher in Kansas, he lived most of his life in the East. He derived his knowledge of frontier life from frequent trips to the Western territories of Montana, Arizona, New Mexico, North Dakota and Wyoming as well as western Canada. Remington recorded in drawings and journal entries the scenes and people he encountered throughout his travels. By 1886, Remington had made a career of publishing his Western themed illustrations and articles in leading publications, mainly for Harper’s Weekly. Within a few years, his scenes depicting critical moments in the adventurous lives of cavalrymen, mountaineers, Indians and cowboys had so captured the imaginations of readers in the East that he became one of the most popular illustrators of the period.

Because of the traveling assignments from Harper’s to report on such events as the Geronimo campaign in Arizona, Remington was restricted to easily transportable and reproducible black and white drawings. He first tried his hand at painting in 1887 by infusing his canvases with the color he had described in diaries while journeying in the Southwest: “In the broken country of Western Arizona the earth is of a blue red color made cold in the shadows and cold to in the sun though with marked difference. The misquit—of a [undecipherable] kind is a blue white green.” He began entering his paintings into annual art exhibitions, because although Remington was popular as an illustrator, he longed to be accepted as a fine artist by renowned art institutions and critics. His efforts were rewarded when he was honored with two prizes at the National Academy of Design exhibition in 1888 and a silver medal at the Paris International Exposition in 1889. In 1895, Remington began depicting Western subjects in sculpture, though he had no formal training in the medium, achieving in bronze the same dynamism and illusionism of his drawings and paintings.

In 1898, Remington was eager to accept assignments from Harper’s and the New York Journal to travel to Cuba during the Spanish-American War. For the first time he could report on an actual war, a long-cherished subject. Witnessing the aftermath of the Battle of San Juan Hill though, caused him extreme anguish. The horrors of modern warfare disillusioned the artist to the glory and heroism of war he had imagined since childhood. After his disheartening experience in Cuba, Remington devoted himself to refining the formal aspects of his paintings. He was especially determined to improve his use of color. Toward the end of his career, he was occupied with painting atmospheric or tonal paintings, as opposed to the tightly-rendered details he had been concerned with in his previous work.

Remington died of complications following an appendectomy in 1909. Though he outlived the end of the American frontier by over a decade, his imagery carried the mythic West well into the twentieth century. Not only did Remington propagate the adventurous and optimistic spirit that motivated Westward expansion, but his portrayal of the rugged individualism of the West continues to contribute to the unique identity of America’s history and landscape.

II. Chronology

1861 Born October 4 in Canton, NY
1873 Moved to Ogdensburg, NY
1875 Enrolled at Vermont Episcopal Institute in Burlington
1876 Enrolled at Highland Military Academy in Worcester, MA
1878 Enrolled at Yale College School of Art
1881 Took his first trip West, visited Montana territory
1882 First published illustration, for Harper’s Weekly
1883 Attempted sheep ranch operation in Peabody, KS
1884 Moved to Kansas City; Married Eva Caten in Gloversville, NY
1885 Moved to Brooklyn, NY
1886 Enrolled at Art Students League; visited Arizona, Mexico and New Mexico
1887 Visited North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, and Western Canada; Began to produce
paintings; First exhibit, at the American Watercolor Society and the National Academy of Design; Produced illustrations for Theodore Roosevelt’s published articles on the West
1888 Won Hallgarten and Clark awards at National Academy of Design exhibition; Visited
Arizona, Texas and New Mexico
1889 Won silver medal at Paris International Exposition; Painted A Dash for the Timbers
1890 Moved to Endion estate in New Rochelle, NY
1892 Traveled to Germany, Russia, London and Paris
1893 Traveled to Mexico for Harper’s Weekly; traveled to Algeria to paint French soldiers
1895 Began sculpting in bronze; His first book, Pony Tracks—an anthology of his magazine
articles, was published
1898 Went to Santiago, Cuba as a war correspondent and illustrator covering the Spanish-
American War for Harper’s and New York Journal
1899 Began illustrating for Collier’s
1900 Began summering at home in Ingleneuk, NY
1901 Collection of color lithographs, Bunch of Buckskins, published
1903 Began exhibiting at Noé Gallery, New York; received contract from Collier’s to
reproduce twelve of his paintings a year for four years
1906 Began exhibiting at M. Knoedler & Co., New York
1908 Last trip to the West; purchased land for home and studio in Ridgefield, CT
1909 Died of complications from emergency appendectomy in Ridgefield, CT

III. Collections

Amon Carter Museum, TX
Art Institute of Chicago, IL
Bradford Brinton Memorial and Museum, WY
Buffalo Bill Historical Center, WY
Gilcrease Institute, OK
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA
Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY
Milwaukee Art Museum, WI
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX
National Museum of American Art, Wash. D.C.
New Britain Museum of American Art, CT
New York Public Library, NY
Ogdensburg Public Library, NY
Remington Art Museum, NY
Rockwell Museum, NY
Santa Barbara Museum of Art, CA
Shelburne Museum, VT
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Wash. D.C.
Toledo Museum of Art, OH
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, VA
Wadsworth Atheneum, CT
West Point Museum, NY
Yale University Art Gallery, CT

IV. Exhibitions

1887 American Watercolor Society
1887–99 National Academy of Design
1889 Paris Exposition, Paris
1890 American Art Galleries of the American Art Association
1890-91 Boston Art Club
1892-93 Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art
1895 American Art Galleries of the American Art Association
1901 Clausen Gallery
1903 Noé Gallery, New York
1906 M. Knoedler & Co., New York
1906-10 Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art
1907-08 Corcoran Galleries annuals
1909 Doll and Richards Gallery, Boston; Boston Art Club

V. Memberships

National Academy of Design
National Institute of Arts and Letters

VI. Notes

James K. Ballinger, Frederic Remington (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1989). P. 32.

VII. Suggested Resources

Anderson, Nancy K., William C. Sharpe and Alexander Nemerov, Frederic Remington: The
Color of Night
. Washington, D.C., Princeton and Oxford: National Gallery of Art and
Princeton University Press, 2003.
Ballinger, James K. Frederic Remington. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1989.
Buckland, Roscoe L. Frederic Remington: The Writer. New York, New York: Twayne
Publishers, 2000.
Dippie, Brian W. The Frederic Remington Art Museum Collection. Ogdensburg, New York:
Frederic Remington Art Museum, 2001.
Greenbaum, Michael D. Icons of the West: Frederic Remington's Sculpture. Ogdensburg, New
York: Frederic Remington Art Museum, 1996.
Hassrick, Peter H. and Melissa J. Webster. Frederic Remington: A Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings,
Watercolors and Drawings.
Cody, Wyoming: Buffalo Bill Historical Center (in
association with the University of Washington Press), 1996.
Hassrick, Peter H. The Frederic Remington Studio. Seattle, Washington and London: University of Washington Press (in association with the Buffalo Bill Historical Center), 1994.
--------- Remington, Russell and the Language of Western Art. Washington, D.C.: Trust
for Museum Exhibitions, 2000.
Jussim, Estelle. Frederic Remington, the Camera, and the Old West. Fort Worth, Texas: Amon
Carter Museum, 1983.
McCracken, Harold. Frederic Remington: Artist of the Old West. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: J.B.
Lippincott, Co., 1947.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Frederic Remington: "The Truth of Other Days." New York:
Public Media Home Vision, 1990.
Nemerov, Alexander. Frederic Remington and Turn-of-the-Century America. New Haven,
Connecticut and London: Yale University Press, 1995.
Remington, Frederic. The Collected Writings of Frederic Remington. Peggy Samuels and Harold
Samuels, eds. Garden City, New Jersey: Doubleday, 1979.
Samuels, Peggy and Harold Samuels. Remington: The Complete Prints. New York: Crown, 1989.
---------. Frederic Remington: A Biography. Garden City, New
Jersey: Doubleday, 1982.
Splete, Allen P. and Marilyn D. Splete. Frederic Remington: Selected Letters. New York: Abbeville
Press, 1988.

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