Frederic Sackrider Remington and The American West

Text by Lynn C. McDaniel, Communications Specialist, University Art Galleries Department

The Forsyth Galleries has, in its collection, some important paintings by artists who focused their talents on the American West, including Joseph Henry Sharp, Charles Marion Russell, and (among others) Albert Bierstadt. One of the many favorites currently on exhibition is a painting called Modern Comanche, by Frederic Remington.
Painting by Frederic Remington of Modern Comanche
Frederic Sackrider Remington was born in 1861 in Canton, New York, and grew up in the Eastern United States. He took his first trip west when he was 20 years old. Although Remington moved west for a short period of time, and visited quite often to acquire inspiration for his paintings, he and his wife found the life difficult and ended up moving back to New York.

As one who loved adventure and a good story, Remington used his skills as an illustrator, painter, novelist, journalist, and sculptor to create his own version of the wild west. More than the west inspiring Remington’s paintings, Remington, with his bold sense of color, light and his focus on the cowboy and Native American conflict, created America’s popular vision of who and what America represented—bravery, adventure, man against man, and man against nature.

Much of the cinematography of Director John Ford’s western films was based on the works of Remington, Russell and Von Schmidt, but Remington seemed to be his greatest influence. Ford’s cavalry movies, including “Fort Apache,” “She Wore A Yellow Ribbon,” and “Rio Grande,” among many others, have become film tributes to the works of artists of the American west.

Ford stated, “When I did ‘She Wore a Yellow Ribbon’, I tried to have the cameras photograph it as Remington would have sketched and painted it. It came out beautifully and was very successful in this respect, I think. When I did ‘The Searchers,’ I used a Charles Russell motif. These were two of our greatest western artists, of course.” (Howze)

Ford also borrowed techniques from Remington–such as diagonal composition and specific gestures illustrated by the artist–to flesh out his films. But art imitating life eventually became life rewritten by art. In a scene from “Fort Apache,” John Wayne’s character, Captain Yorke, discusses a painting named Thursday’s Charge with newspaper men. The painting depicts a brave charge, led by Colonel Thursday, against savage Apaches in warpaint. Although Captain Yorke knows the charge was ill-conceived and reckless, he maintains the bravado of the Colonel and states that the painting is “Correct in every detail.” Similarly, in “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” one of the actors notes, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

Although he was a prolific and brilliant artist, Remington’s attitudes and personal beliefs aligned with the times, and he made several racist and bigoted remarks in letters to friends. He is reviled by some both for his comments, and for his paintings of battle scenes with white soldiers and cowboys dominating their bloody victims, such as in The Battle of Warbonnet Creek. But Remington was an American of the late 1800s and early 1900s. His views were reflective of his time and sympathetic to the American Cowboy, not to Native Americans or so-called “foreigners.” (Pinder)

In 1897, Remington was sent to Cuba in the wake of the Spanish American War to work as an illustrator/journalist for William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal. During this time, rumors of “one of the most famous stories in American journalism” was widely reported. Remington supposedly telegraphed to Hearst, “Everything is quiet. There is no trouble here. There will be no war. I wish to return.” Hearst was reported to have replied, “Please remain. You furnish the pictures, and I’ll furnish the war.” In “Not likely sent: The Remington-Hearst ‘Telegrams,’ “ W. Joseph Campbell states that it is “exceedingly unlikely that such messages were ever sent,” and was more likely a case of trying to prove that, by using yellow journalism, Hearst and his newspaper had forced the United States into war. (Campbell)

Revered and respected as an artist, Remington died when he was only 48 years old, succumbing to peritonitis after an emergency appendectomy. His legacy included more than 2,750 paintings and illustrations, eight books (including novels and collections of magazine articles) and 25 original sculptures (from which many castings were made).

In addition to Modern Comanche, the Forsyth Galleries are proud to offer our patrons the opportunity to view two other outstanding Remington paintings: Cowboys on a Cattle Thief’s Trail and Crossing Water to Escape a Prairie Fire, as well as paintings by Russell, Farny, Sharp, Fechin and many other celebrated Western artists.

Works Cited:

Ballinger, James K. Frederick Remington Art Museum. Website: Published 1989. Date accessed: November 12, 2012.

Buscombe, Edward. Painting the Legend: Frederic Remington and the Western. Cinema Journal , Vol. 23, No. 4 (Summer, 1984), pp. 12-27 . Published by: University of Texas Press on behalf of the Society for Cinema & Media Studies . Article Stable URL: Date accessed: November 13, 2012.

Campbell, W. Joseph. “Not likely sent: The Remington-Hearst ‘Telegrams”. Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly.Website: Published Summer 2000. Date accessed: November 13, 2012.

Howze, W. The Influence of Western Painting and Genre Painting on the Films of John Ford, Connexions Website: Sep 2, 2011. Date accessed: November 12, 2012.

Pinder, Kymberly N. Race-ing Art History: Critical Readings in Race and Art History. Published in 2002 by Routledge. Website: Date accessed: November 12, 2012.

Van Houten, Amy. The Spanish American War Centennial. Website: Date published: Unknown. Date accessed: November 12, 2012.


Conservation and Care of Texas A&M’s Memorials and Statues

Text by Lynn C. McDaniel, Communications Specialist for the University Art Department

Photos by John Peters, Audio Visual Specialist, Texas A&M College of Architecture

One of the duties tasked to the University Art Department is the care, preservation  and cleaning of the majority of  statues and memorials on campus, at least once per year.  Friday, November 2nd, our department set out to care for the Bonfire Memorial.

The Bonfire Memorial is a tribute to the twelve students who lost their lives, as well as the 27 who were injured, on November 18, 1999 when the bonfire stack they were building collapsed.  The bonfire had been a tradition at Texas A&M since 1909, as a pep rally before each year’s football game against the University of Texas.  The collapse of the bonfire stack, and the ensuing deaths and injuries, were devastating events that marked the end of the bonfire tradition on campus.

Designed by Former Students at the San Antonio-based architectural firm Overland Partners, the Bonfire Memorial was dedicated November 18, 2004.  The memorial is constructed of gray Chinese granite and bronze, and, from conception to completion, took 4 years to build.  One year after its dedication, Overland Partners received an Award of Honor from the San Antonio Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

Prior to any on-campus art conservation effort, UART sends out requests to students, asking for volunteers from student organizations.  Volunteers sign up for one-hour shifts starting at 9:00 am, and work until the cleaning is finished.  Some students receive extra credit or service credits, while others are simply proud to volunteer to help conserve and protect the memorial out of respect for those who lost their lives.

Students first wash the bronze panels, top to bottom, using a mild soap and water, then rinse and dry them thoroughly.  The original bronze was colored and protected using a technique called patination, which has been used by artists in all cultures for many centuries.  Patinas, the root of patination, form naturally on metal objects as a result of corrosion, but the art of patination has been developed both to give sculptures that “weathered” look and to protect the artwork from corrosion.  Our conservation efforts strive to safeguard the protective patina, thereby further shielding the artwork.  The original artists’ patina usually serves to protect an outdoor sculpture for an average of five to ten years, depending on exposure and climate, with little or no elemental damage.  With good conservation efforts however, damaged can be controlled for many more years.

Unfortunately, after 8 years of exposure to the Texas sun, wind, rain and the spray of the sprinkling system, three of the Bonfire portals, in particular, are showing excessive pitting and corrosion.   Student volunteers carefully applied wax to the bronze, spreading it thinly and making sure to get it into every crack and crevice, paying particular attention to pitted or damaged areas.  Once the wax dried, students used elbow-grease to buff the bronze to a smooth, protective shine.  The portals showing the worst damage received additional coats of wax for more protection.  The Chinese granite requires little more than to be swept and given a simple wash with water.

The University Art Department works diligently to ensure that the statues and memorials on the Texas A&M campus will be available for our students’ enjoyment, as well as to commemorate those to whom they  were dedicated, for many years to come.  No matter where you live, you probably have statues and memorials in your town, on your campus or in some public place nearby.  We invite you to stop, look and really appreciate those works of art, and to remember those who work to maintain their integrity.  We also invite you to come and visit the Bonfire Memorial at Texas A&M University, and to remember the 12 who lost their lives that terrible night:  Miranda Adams, Christopher Breen, Michael Ebanks, Jeremy Frampton, Jamie Hand, Christopher Lee Heard, Lucas Kimmel, Bryan McClain, Chad Powell, Jerry Self, Nathan Scott West and Tim Kerlee, Jr.

For more information, click the links below:

1.)    Bonfire Memorial Website:

2.)    Wall Street Journal Article:

3.)    Aggie Bonfire Memorial Design Winner:

4.)    The Victoria and Albert Museum:  The Artificial Patination of Bronze Sculptures:

5.)    Causes of Corrosion:

Dallas Art News Guest Article

Dallas Art News Guest Article

Our friends at Dallas Art News were generous enough to invite us to write a guest article for their site.  Dallas Art News is a news website that covers art news from all over Texas.  They are a wonderful resource for visual artists and those interested in art!  The post details the evidence gathered from a multispectral imaging session of our Cassatt painting Mother in a Large Hat Holding a Nude Baby, Seen in Back View (circa 1909).  Click here or on the picture to be linked to the article!

Mother in a Large Hat, Holding her Nude Baby by Mary Cassatt, circa 1909, oil on canvas, Forsyth Galleries, Texas A&M University

Art News – 2 November 2012

Art News – 2 November 2012

The man accused of vandalizing Picasso’s Woman in a Red Armchair (1929) recently had his first show at the Cueto James Art Gallery in Houston, Texas.  The show for Uriel Landeros was organized by gallery owner James Perez.   The exhibition, titled “Houston, We Have a Problem,” opened on Friday, 26 October 2012.  The opening gala doubled as a Halloween party with free liquor, DJs and music, patrons in Halloween costumes, and Landeros joining the gala via Skype.  It is interesting to note that many of Landeros’ paintings in the exhibition were “tagged” by local graffiti artists in much the same way that he is accused of tagging the Menil Collection’s Woman in a Red Armchair.

Picasso’s Woman in a Red Armchair (1929) after being vandalized with spray paint. Image courtesy Houston Culture Map.

Landeros remains at large until he turns himself over to the police for questioning.  He is believed to be hiding in northern Mexico.  He reports as belonging to the Occupy Movement and this association as reason for his “fight.”  Landeros has reportedly admitted to vandalizing the Picasso painting and said, “I’m not going to give up on my cause.  It doesn’t matter if I turn myself in or not.  It doesn’t mean I’m going to stop fighting.”

Owner of Cuerto James Art Gallery in Houston, TX, James Perez stands in front of Uriel Landeros’ first solo exhibition. Image by Melissa Phillip (AP/Houston Chronicle).

Despite the efforts to destroy Woman in a Red Armchair, the painting was immediately cleaned of the spray paint used to create the image of a bull with the word “conquista.”  The Menil Collection of Houston reports that the painting is set to go on display again in the near future.

The Artist Ego by Uriel Landeros, 2012, tagged with “Picasso” by an unknown person. Image courtesy Houston Culture Map.

For more information, click the links below.

1) NY Times article “Picasso vandal gets his own art show

2) Bigstory AP article “Gallery show for accused Picasso vandal raises ire

3) Houston Culture Map article “Menil Picasso vandal’s own paintings are spray painted as his art show debut turns into a side show

4) Houston Culture Map article “The Menil Picasso vandal answers questions, argues that museums steal from the people

5) article “Vandalized Picasso ready to hang again