To name him fully, Frederic Sackrider Remington is a famous American artist who engaged in all sorts of activities. He was born in New York and moved to Ogdensburg in 1872, where he began his academic journey.
Admittedly, the interests and hobbies of 19th-century American artist Frederic Remington aren’t hard to identify. He was a painter, sculptor, illustrator, and writer who brought to life and documented the old American West through his works. Nonetheless, there were certain interests he had before his art career took off.
Keep on reading as we learn about Frederic Remington’s art and what inspired him to be the artist par excellence he was then and is today.
Early Hobby and Interests – Football and Boxing
After moving to Ogdensburg with his Family, Frederic enrolled in Highland Military Academy. In 1878, he then attended the School of Fine Arts at Yale University, where he explored his first interest – Football.
Frederic saw formal art training as boring and found action-based activities more interesting. Although not a star player, he was part of the Yale football team and found great pride in this. His participation in the football team even influenced his art career, as his first published illustration was an animated image of a bandaged football player. He created this for the school student newspaper, the Yale Courant.
Alongside this passion-fueled footballing hobby was his unexplored interest in boxing. Sadly, Remington had to leave Yale after three semesters upon his father’s death in 1880. He proceeded to work as a clerk in Albany.
Business Interests – Mining, Farming, Sheep Ranching, Wool Trading, Hardware trading, and Saloon Services
Before his career as an illustrator kicked off, the famous artist Frederic Remington tried his hands at some business ventures. His career-long interest influenced these business ideas in the American West.
As he had to travel to the Old West to pursue these ideas, his early business interests became an important foundation for his artistic career as a visual historian of 19th-century West America. The first of these interests was in cattle operation and mining which pushed him to Montana in 1881. He, however, realized he didn’t have sufficient capital to achieve these.
In 1883, Frederic bought a quarter of a sheep ranch in Kansas and pursued farming, wool trading, and other commercial interests in Missouri. These, sadly, only brought about little financial success and even looked like endeavors that were too rough for him as an Eastern boy. So in less than a year, Frederic sold his sheep ranch and returned home.
Frederic Remington still determined to succeed, gathered capital from his mother to open a hardware business in Kansas City. This failed due to allegations of fraud. He became interested in saloon services and bought a half stake in one.
All this time, just like in his footballing days, Frederic remained committed to his art career, and his days at the saloon saw him recreate images of some of its visitors. But, with the saloon doing badly and his wife leaving him in Kansas City, Frederic was left with no other choice but to focus more on his career in art.
Early Career and Increased Interest in Arts
Unlike his other business interests, Frederic’s interest in arts brought him some level of success. He sold his sketches and paintings of the American West to locals, moved to Brooklyn with his wife, and then enrolled in the Arts Students League of New York. This move proved vital for his career.
His refueled interest in arts and enrollment in another institution came at a time when newspapers had increased demand for illustrations of the dying old West. So Frederic submitted the sketches and paintings he created during his travels to the American West to publications like Harper’s Weekly. He then got picked thanks to his experience as a ranch owner or “cowboy”, representing the authenticity level needed by Eastern publishing houses.
Frederic Remington had his first credited full-page cover on Harper’s Weekly in 1886 at 25 and successfully pursued his art career.
Frederic Remington didn’t just produce images for Harper’s Weekly magazine. His illustrations established him as a prominent artist in Brooklyn, allowing his works to feature in other magazines like Century Magazine, Collier’s Weekly, and Outing magazine between 1885 and 1913.
Black-and-White, Watercolor, and Oil Reproductions/Commissions
Much of Frederic’s popularity came from his interest in engaging in black-and-white illustrations reproducing scenes of the American West. He moved from this to incorporate watercolor into his artistic process and sold his works at art exhibitions with immense success.
In 1887, Frederic received a commission from Theodore Roosevelt to create eighty-three illustrations for the book “Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail”. This greatly boosted his career and saw him compete against other revered Western American artists like Winslow Homer, Eastman Johnson, and Albert Bierstadt. He is also known for the popular Frederic Remington night paintings, which gave another perspective to the American West.
For Frederic Remington, interest in writing was only another way through which he could give his art increased reach and visibility. His books always featured famous drawings and served as historical written and visual records of the old American West.
Some of his most popular books include “Frederic Remington’s Own West”, “Crooked Trails”, “The American West”, “The Collected Writings of Frederic Remington”, and “The Way of an Indian”, among a barrage of others.
Frederic Remington’s interest in creating bronze statuettes is perhaps the last of his adopted hobbies that also saw immense recognition. He created 22 statuettes, with the first set of four sculpted in 1895.
Created during his time working with the Henry-Bonnard Bronze Company in New York, this set of statuettes includes his most famous sculpture, the “Broncho Buster”, alongside “The Wounded Bunkie”, “The Wicked Pony”, and “The Scalp”. These were created using sand-casting and lost-wax bronze-casting methods.
Today, an authentic Frederic Remington sculpture goes for nothing less than $75,000.
It isn’t hard to see that Frederic Remington had so many interests. However, his early footballing hobby and business interests in farming and saloon services didn’t last long. Nonetheless, his fascination with the American West stayed with him and eventually became his vehicle toward success. In addition, his pursuit of an artistic career allowed him to explore other interests like writing and sculpting, stamping his place as one of America’s most significant.