Portrait photo courtesy of the National Gallery.
He's not my favorite person. Far from it: he seems to me to have been a pompous racist without a good word for anyone, and in his career as an embedded illustrator for an army trained to decimate Indian tribes of their men, women, and children, he acted as a sycophant and cheerleader.
Author David McCullough quotes from a letter of Remignton's to a friend in Frederic Remington, The Masterworks, published by Abrams in 1988: " 'I've got some Winchesters . . . and when the massacring bgins which you speak of, I can get my share of 'em and what's more I will. Jews-injuns-Chinamen-Italians-Huns, the rubbish of the earth I hate.'
"He longed for a 'real blood letting,' a war. . . ."
McCullough concludes the paragraph with "The only combat he had ever experienced firsthand was on the Yale football field."
Born on 1 October 1861 in upstate New York, close to the border of Canada to an upper middle-class family and a Civil War hero father, he succumbed to peritonitis caused by a ruptured appendix on the day after Christmas, 1909, in Ridgefield, Connecticut, at the age of 48.
The folio below appeared in Scribner's Monthly Magazine for October 1902. The text is his as well as the illustrations. Click on the images to enlarge them.
"The Cow-Boy. No longer strange, and becoming conventional, the cow-boy is merely trying to get mountain-bred ponies to go where he wants them to go. Knowing the 'Irish Pig' of their nature, he has to be fast and insistent; all of which represents a type of riding and pony 'footing' easier to deliniate than to perform."
"The Cossack Post (cavalryman). A picket of three men is technically called a 'cossack post,' and the moonlight of the picture uncovers a United States cavalryman on the Northern Plains in the almost fierce and certainly definite light of a country which has 'no atmosphere,' as painters phrase it. The cap and overcoat were issued for winter campaigns in the sullen cold."
"The Scout. Too well known to need particular comment. He was the white hunter who had gone to the wild countries and was employed by our troops for light-horse work in a country and a people unknown to the army."
"The Half-Breed. One of the relics of the old fur company days -- the descendant of white employees and Indian squaws. In great numbers the half-breeds led a nomad existence on the plains of the Northwest, and at one time bid fair to become a separate and peculiar people. Our government through the Army deported large bands from the then territory of Montana to Canada, and their expiring effort was the Louis Riel Rebellion. The passing of the buffalo left them stranded, and their predatory habits made their suppression necessary; but they still exist, though robbed of their picturesque apparel and characteristic traits."
For a wonderful slide show of Remington's night paintings, The Color of Night,
click on this link to The National Gallery's website.
Next: Frederic Remington, A Scout with the Buffalo-Soldiers, and more.