Frederic Remington
Biography of American 'Wild West' Painter.

Pin it

A Dash for the Timber (1889) (detail)
Amon Carter Museum,
Fort Worth, Texas.

Frederic Remington (1861-1909)


Early Career
The Wild West
Reputation Grows As Illustrator
Final Years
American Colonial Art (c.1670-1800)

Paintings by Frederic Remington
are also widely available online
in the form of poster art.

For top creative practitioners, see:
Best Artists of All Time.
For the greatest genre-painting, see:
Best Genre Painters.

For the best works, see:
Greatest Modern Paintings.


An important and popular figure in American art, the painter and sculptor Frederic Remington was the most famous artist of the cowboy 'Wild West', and his iconic images inspired generations of Hollywood producers. After a period at Yale Art School he spent several years in the Territories, while he established a reputation for his illustration of frontier life in magazines like Harper's Weekly. Highly prolific, he produced thousands of artworks including sketches, lithographs, watercolours and oils - mostly in the form of genre painting of cowboy life. He portrayed the subject matter he loved most, the military, horses, Indians and the western frontier, and his output includes some of the greatest genre paintings ever produced of the 'Wild West'. In later years he experimented with sculpture. It is thought that his famous Bronco Buster (1989) bronze sculpture exists in over 300 casts. The Frederic Remington Art Museum in Ogdensburg, New York houses nearly 80 major oil paintings by the artist, with emphasis on later works, 16 bronze sculptures, and many of his drawings and watercolours. In addition to his status as one of the most popular modern artists in America, Remington also enjoyed a reputation as a writer and correspondent, not least for his coverage of the Indian Wars (1890-91) and the Spanish-American War of 1898.



Early Career

Remington was born in Canton, New York in 1861. He was bought up during the Civil War, and was no doubt inspired by stories from his father who was a colonel in the army. He developed a love for the outdoors, and took every opportunity to indulge his passion for riding, fishing, boating and hunting. His other great love was drawing, and he was constantly sketching. In particular he loved to sketch the soldiers in their military uniforms. Remington's father sent him to military academy, probably in the hope of instilling some discipline in his wayward son. While everyone agreed Remington was a pleasant sort, he was more interested in drawing and playing sports than in any serious academic training. He spent a brief period at the art School of Yale University but found drawing from still life and casts uninspiring. He tried working as a reporter and several other short lived jobs.

The Wild West

In 1881 he made his first trip to the west, visiting Montana. There he saw the vast prairies of the West for the first time, as well as buffalo herds which were still roaming freely and came into contact with Indians and the Cavalry. It was just as he imagined it in his boyhood and the experience provided the fuel of his future art career. In 1884 he married, but after several failed attempts at owning a business, from a cattle ranch to a bar, his disgruntled wife returned home to her father. When she left, Remington wandered the desert for several weeks. He returned to New York, clearer about his path in life.


He reclaimed his wife and determined to become serious about his art. He submitted some sketches of the west to Harper's Weekly magazine and very quickly his career blossomed. In 1886 he was sent to Arizona by the magazine and paid a weekly commission as an artist correspondent to cover the Government's campaign against the infamous Geronimo. Although Remington never saw the Indian chief, he did pick up a lot of authentic artifacts which he later included in his paintings. He also made notes in his sketchbook about the colours of the west, the sky, the shadows of horses and the soldier's uniforms in the glaring sun. He used these notes to supplement the black and white photos which he worked from. Ironically critics later criticised his art palette as 'primitive and unnatural', despite the fact they were the result of direct observation. Many more commissions flowed in from magazines and publications. He was also asked to create 83 illustrations for a book by Theodore Roosevelt entitled Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail.

Reputation Grows As Illustrator

Remington's painting developed in complexity, leading one reporter to comment that he would 'one day be listed among our great American painters'. Although some critics did not like his style, it was generally agreed to be distinctive and contemporary. His reputation began to steadily grow. In 1889 he was awarded the second class medal at the famous Paris International Exposition. He had been selected to represent America over Albert Bierstadt (1830–1902) whose sweeping landscape painting of the American wilderness populated by barely discernible people had gone out of fashion. Harpers magazine responded with a huge publicity drive, elevating Remington to the level of Charles Dana Gibson (1867-1944) and Howard Pyle (1853–1911), two of the most reputed illustrators and graphic artists of the era. Remington had his first solo exhibition in 1890 at the American Art Galleries, where he displayed 21 paintings, most of which sold. Examples of paintings from this period include Remington's Cavalry in an Arizona Sandstorm (c.1889) and A Dash for the Timber (1889) both at the Amon Carter Museum, Texas and Fight Over a Waterhole (1897, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, California).


During the 1890s Remington began to learn sculpture. Initially he worked in the traditional sand cast method, but quickly moved onto the lost wax process. In 1895 he made a bronze sculpture entitled Bronco Buster. It portrays a brave frontier cowboy trying to stay aboard a rearing horse. It remains his most popular sculpture, and there are nearly 300 casts in existence today. The original cast can be found in the White House Oval Office. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has a 1909 version in its permanent collection. Although Remington created another 21 bronze sculptures his Bronco Buster remains the most famous and most loved.



Final Years

Towards the end of his life Remington decided to quit illustration and to focus on his paintings and sculptures instead. Examples include his Self-Portrait on a Horse (1890), depicting a rather lean version of himself (by this time he was suffering from morbid obesity); The Scout: Friends or Foes? (1902–5, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Massachusetts) and and Shotgun Hospitality (1908, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire). His last few paintings became looser in technique as he admired the work of the Impressionist painters. His only regret was that his declining health prevented him from taking up plein air painting.

Remington died in 1909 at the age of 48 after an emergency appendix operation. Although his art career only spanned 25 years, in that time he produced over 3,000 sketches and paintings, 22 sculptures, several plays, articles and a novel. His work was used for advertising; the first Marlboro Man cigarette advert was one of his illustrations. His portrayal of the Wild West is an iconic representation of one of America’s most interesting periods in history.

Paintings by Frederic Remington can be seen in many of the best art museums throughout America.

• For biographies of other American frontier artists, see: Famous Painters.
• For more details of modern painting, see: Homepage.

© All rights reserved.