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The West As A Wild And Untamed Frontier

3160 words - 13 pages

The West as a wild and untamed frontier is now a thing of the past, and we are left only with the imagery of those who were there to chronicle it as it was. Painter and sculptor Frederic Remington was one of those chroniclers, and is considered by many to be one of the best. In his brief career as a Western artist, which began around 1885 and ended with his untimely death in 1909, Remington left a number of messages about the West in his work, but here we will deal with three major themes. First, that the West was a place of danger and violence; second, that Remington honestly depicted more than just the White, European presence in the West; and third, that toward the end of his career, ...view middle of the document...

"4 Remington had come to be the first artist to chronicle the unruly and violent nature of life in the West.Violence and danger as a theme continued to appear in Remington's works throughout his career. In his 1896 bronze "Wounded Bunkie" Remington depicts "the frenzy of [two cavalry] officers beating their retreat" by having "only two of the horses' eight hooves touching the ground."5 The theme carried through to many of his bronzes, including "The Rattlesnake" from 1905, which shows a horse rearing back in reaction to encountering a rattlesnake on the trail. Remington's message throughout many of his works, and throughout his career was that the West was a place where violence and danger came in many forms and was a very real part of everyday life in the region.In addition to the violence and danger of the West, Remington also endeavoured to depict more than just the White European presence in the West. Present day critics tend to call Remington a racist, but seen in the context of his times, this is hardly true. Remington showed the presence of many other racial groups in the West at a time when others were not as inclined to do so, and Remington often depicted these groups in a favourable light.Remington's focus on those groups others ignored can be seen in his treatment of the Black Buffalo soldiers. While accompanying Lieutenant Poultney Bigelow, and his troop of Buffalo soldiers, in the Southwest, Remington "stuck to the troopers - making sure to show that most of them were black, which Bigelow's narrative tended to overlook."6 Additionally, Remington's depictions of the Buffalo soldiers showed them as good soldiers. In "Captain Dodge's Colored Troopers to the Rescue"7 from 1891, the Black Buffalo soldiers can be seen riding boldly and courageously "to the rescue."This idea of diversity in the West, Remington also applied to Native Americans. While many of his works showed Native Americans as a very real threat, this was realistic in that they were, at times, a threat. However, Remington also represented Native Americans in a more positive light.In "Roasting the Christmas Beef in a Cavalry Camp"8 from 1892, there is a depiction of an Indian, probably a scout, included as part of a group of cavalry soldiers standing around a cook fire, awaiting their meal.Remington's imagery of Native Americans, however, went much deeper. He also depicted them as ordinary people, no different than any other group in the West. He showed individual Indians in the same light he depicted other soldiers, as proud, brave men, doing the duties expected of them; this is true in such works as "Comanche Brave, Fort Reno"9 from 1888 and "Modern Comanche"10 from 1890. Both depict Native Americans sitting proudly and bravely astride their horses. This is even more evident in "Geronimo and His Band Returning From a Raid Into Mexico"11 from 1888; while Geronimo and his men are quite apparently returning from Mexico with stolen horses, Remington still shows Geronimo at the...

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