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Frederic Remington and the West: With the Eye of the. Mind By Ben Merchant Vorpahl. By Ben Merchant Vorpahl.
Table of contents
In Aiding a Comrade, Remington has chosen a scene of high drama. One interpretation of this painting is that, while riding, a cowboy has fallen from this horse.
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His companions attempt to help him and prevent him from being trampled by their horses. The artist leaves the fate of the rider unclear. Remington focuses on the group of men and horses in the foreground. The brown horses turn outward, framing the central figure, who is further accentuated by the cloud of white dust behind him. Remington creates a convincing illusion of deep space through perspective — he paints the Indians much smaller, with less detail, and with faded colors. The quick, short brushstrokes show the influence of French Impressionism, which emphasized color, shadow, and light.
Perhaps no other artist is as closely identified with the depiction of the American West as Frederic Remington. Born in upstate New York in , the son of a newspaper editor and Civil War soldier, Remington was fascinated with the tales his father told of battles and soldierly camaraderie.
In , Remington took his first trip to the West.
In the following year, he moved to Kansas where he bought and ran a sheep ranch. In Remington returned to New York, where he began selling his sketches to publishers of illustrated magazines. He soon became a leading illustrator of Western subjects, and one of the most sought-after magazine illustrators in America. His reputation was such that when Theodore Roosevelt wrote a series of articles on ranching and hunting in the West, he chose Remington to illustrate them. During the s, Remington turned his attention from illustration to painting and sculpture.
Aiding a Comrade is an excellent example of the work for which he is best known.
Sensing that there was a side of America that was still artistically unchartered. Frederic Remington traveled west many times to report for magazines, make sketches, and buy props, such as boots and hats, for his studio. It was during this show that critics positioned him not only as an artist, but as a historian and ethnographer. The narrative quality of his work gained him a reputation as a pictorial recorder of the passing American West. Observations Observe the figures in the foreground. Describe their clothing, riding equipment, facial expressions, horses, and implied actions.
Name the men and their horses. Why did you choose those names? How does the artist use aspects of perspective to create an illusion of deep space between the cowboys and the Plains Indians? Describe the colors and the color scheme.
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Why might the artist have chosen such a limited color palette? What types of textures do they evoke? Where is the center of interest? The animal bearing it had a threatening look, and I expected a repetition of a performance of a few days before, when I had chased the general for over three hours, making in all twenty-eight miles.
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Before accepting an invitation to accompany an Indian commission into the Northwest I had asked the general quietly if this was a horseback or a wagon outfit. He had assured me that he was not a wagon man, and I indeed had heard before that he was not. There is always a distinction in the army between wagon men and men who go without wagons by transporting their supplies on pack animals. The wagon men have always acquired more reputation as travellers than Indian fighters.
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In a trip to the Pine Ridge Agency I had discovered that General Miles was not committed to any strained theory of how mounted men should be moved. Any settled purpose he might have about his movements were all locked up in a desperate desire to get thar.
Being a little late in leaving a point on the railroad, I rode along with Lieutenant Guilfoil, of the Ninth, and we moved at a gentle trot. Presently we met a citizen in a wagon, and he, upon observing the lieutenant in uniform, pulled up his team and excitedly inquired,. We laughed, and remarked that the general must be riding pretty hard. Other citizens we met inquired if that man was a lunatic or a criminal. All of these episodes opened my eyes to the fact that if I followed General Miles I would have to do some riding such as I had rarely done before.
In coming back to the railroad we left the Pine Ridge Agency in the evening without supper, and I was careful to get an even start. My horse teetered and wanted to gallop, but I knew that the twenty-eight miles would have to be done at full speed, so I tried to get him down to a fast trot, which gait I knew would last better; but in the process of calming him down to a trot I lost sight of the general and his orderly as they went tearing like mad over a hill against the last gleam of the sunset.
I rode at a very rapid trot over the hills in the moonlight for over three hours, but I never saw the general again until I met him at dinner. Then I further concluded that if I followed the general I would have no time to regait my horses, but must take them as I found them, gallop or trot. So on this cool morning at Keough I took observations of the horses which were tied to the post, with my mind full of misgivings. Patter, patter, patter—clank, clank, clank; up comes the company of Cheyenne scouts who are to escort the general—fine-looking, tall young men, with long hair, and mounted on small Indian ponies.
They were dressed and accoutred as United States soldiers, and they fill the eye of a military man until nothing is lacking.
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Now the general steps out of the car and hands the commission into a six-mule ambulance. I am given a horse, and, mounting, we move off over the plain and into the hills. The sun comes streaming over the landscape, and the general is thinking about this old trail, and how years before he had ploughed his way through the blinding snow to the Lame Deer fight. We break into a gallop. The landscape is gilded by the morning sun, and the cool of the October air makes it a perfect thing, but there are elements in the affair which complicate its perfection.
The bad lands are rough, and the general goes down a hill with even more rapidity than up it. This could be remedied by allowing the officers of each regiment to buy their own horses; but in our army nothing is remedied, because a lot of nice old gentlemen in Washington are too conservative to do anything but eat and sleep. There is a bit of human nature at the bottom of our army organization, and where is the man who can change that? Men who were the very jewels of the profession years ago have reached in due time the upper grades of rank, and occupy the bureaus of the department.
These men who have acquired rank, years, and discretion naturally do nothing, and with sedate gravity insist that no one else shall do anything. The ambitious young men have to wait patiently for their retirement, and in process of waiting they, too, become old and conservative.
Old soldiers are pardonable rubbish, since soldiers, like other men, must age and decay, the only distinction being that youthful vigor is of prime importance to a soldier, while in the case of the citizen any abatement of vigor is rewarded by being shelved. What to do with old soldiers is a problem which I will hand over to the economists as being beyond my depth. But to return to the going downhill. General Miles has acquired his knowledge of riding from wild Indians, and wild Indians go uphill and downhill as a matter of course at whatever gait they happen to be travelling.
He would make his horse climb a tree with equal gravity if he was bound that way. The general has known Indians to ride for two days and a night at a rapid gallop, and it never occurs to him that he cannot do anything which any one else can; so he spurs along, and we go cutting around the coulies and bluffs like frightened antelopes or mad creatures.
The escort strings out behind. This is observed with a grim humor by the general, who desires nothing so much as to leave his escort far in the rear. They get sleepy; and away we go. It is all very well for a major-general to ride down a cavalry horse, but if such an accident were to happen to me, then my friends in the cavalry would crown me with thorns. Two hundred and fifteen pounds requires a great deal more careful attention than a one-hundred-and-forty-pound wasp-waisted cavalryman.