Frederic Remington was born in Canton, New York, and attended the Yale School of Art, where he studied drawing and played football. When he was twenty years old, he traveled west for a vacation and mailed a rough sketch to Harper’s Weekly magazine, kicking off his career as an illustrator. He had tried his hand at sheep ranching in Kansas, but after a couple of years returned to New York, making trips west from his home in the East. Most of his work was created in his studio in New Rochelle, New York. Remington’s artistic career began with painting and drawing, but a friend encouraged him to try his hand at sculpture in 1895. He made 24 sculptures in his last 14 years as an artist. Remington liked the permanence of bronze sculpture: “My water colors will fade—but I am to endure in bronze,” he said. He died at age 48 at the height of his career.
What Inspired It?
Remington felt compelled to record an American West that he believed to be disappearing. He loved to portray the action and energy of the West and did not feel confined by what were considered the limits of the bronze medium. In this sculpture, Remington has defied the traditional means of supporting sculpture, making the falling robe a part of the action. The horse and rider are full of energy and appear to be moving quickly. Remington often worked from photographs to achieve this authentic image of motion. To create this bronze sculpture, Remington used a method called lost wax casting. A “cast” is a form that is created by pouring liquid metal into a mold. Although it is over 6000 years old, the lost wax method had been newly introduced in the United States during Remington’s time. The process involves six different steps—during each step a new model of the sculpture is made. Lost wax casting allows the artist to make quick changes and fine-tune the wax model before each pour. Remington took advantage of this opportunity for experimentation, and often visited the foundry that produced his casts at this stage. His additional artistic input is evident in the Denver Art Museum’s sculpture, especially in the textures and color of the piece. (For more information on the lost wax casting method, see the "Find Out More" section.)
Things to Look For
Compare the smooth skin of the Indian to the rippled musculature of the horse’s flank to the high relief texture of the buffalo robe. This sculpture shows the texture variation that was possible using the lost wax method, and it is evidence that this cast received a great deal of personal attention from the artist.
The golden honey color of this particular cast is much lighter than other casts of The Cheyenne, which may be evidence that Remington himself was involved in selecting it. He usually preferred a blue-black patina, so this was probably an experiment.
Four Hooves Off the Ground
In 1878, Eadweard Muybridge’s (MY-bridge) photos of racehorses in motion proved that all four hooves leave the ground at one time. Wanting to show this in bronze, Remington added a buffalo robe falling toward the ground as a support for the flying horse.
Accurate Leg Position
Muybridge’s photos also revealed another misconception: in their off-the-ground position, the horse's legs were bunched together under the belly, rather than in the “hobbyhorse attitude,” with front legs stretched forward and hind legs backward, which was traditional in painting. In using this pose for The Cheyenne, Remington was one of the first artists to take advantage of this new information.
Mane & Tail
The horse’s mane and tail add to the sculpture’s sense of motion—they appear to be blown back by the wind.
The Artist’s Signature
Remington’s signature changes location from cast to cast. On ours, it appears on the base.
Students will examine Remington’s The Cheyenne to identify elements of texture, color, and sense of movement. They will then create their own images of motion using their bodies and cameras to capture their movements and compare them to Remington’s sculpture.
Students will examine Remington’s The Cheyenne and identify the challenges he faced in creating a horse that appears to be airborne. They will then work with a partner and go through a similar problem-solving process to create their own airborne sculpture.
Students will use Remington’s The Cheyenne to talk about change and loss and how art can preserve and record both. They will then conduct an interview with an adult, using questions that get at this sense of change and loss. The information derived from the interview will inform a creative writing piece to be completed by the students.
Have students write a short story, placing the horse and rider in context. Where is he going? What is he doing? Is he alone? What sounds would you hear around him?
Have students get a simplified understanding of the casting process using Model Magic molding clay and Jell-O. Bring in small plastic sculptural shapes (e.g. blocks in the shapes of stars, triangles, etc.).Have students work in pairs to press Model Magic into a Petri dish or small box lid then make an impression of their plastic shape. Coat each mold with cooking spray, carefully pour in Jell-O and refrigerate until set.After removing their Jell-O shapes from the molds, compare them to the original object and imagine the hard work Remington went through to create his elaborate horse and rider.
Many bronze casts of The Cheyenne were made from Remington’s molds after his death. Have secondary students write a position paper that addresses whether or not these casts should be considered “true” Remington artworks. Think about the roles of the artist and foundry during the artistic process.
Find Out More
Lost Wax Casting Process
This video from the National Sculpture Society explains the lost wax casting process, the same technique Remington used in making The Cheyenne.
The Amon Carter Museum’s website has a very detailed timeline of Remington’s life and career, including photographs.
Greenbaum, Michael D. Icons of the West, Frederic Remington’s Sculpture. New York: Frederic Remington Art Museum, 1996.
Commentary about Remington’s different periods of sculpture, accompanied by many photographic examples.
Jackson, Harry. Lost Wax Bronze Casting: A photographic essay on this antique and venerable art. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1979.
A thorough explanation of the lost wax casting process, along with pictures to illustrate each step.
Johnson, Tim. Spirit Capture, Photographs from the National Museum of the American Indian. Smithsonian Institution Press, 1998.
A pictorial documentation of varying Native people from across America, including some history of the land and tribes.
Manley Mangum, Margaret and Atwood Manley. Frederic Remington and North Country, An Informal Biography of the Artist of the Old West. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1988.
An approachable biography about the artist.
Prodger, Phillip. Time Stands Still, Muybridge and the Instantaneous Photography Movement. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.
This text contains a biography of Eadweard Muybridge and many examples of his work, including the horse movement study used by Remington to make his Cheyenne sculpture.
Splete, Allen and Marilyn. Frederic Remington-Selected Letters. New York: Abbeville Press, 1988.
A collection of Remington’s accounts of his experiences, through letters, over the course of his life.
St. Louis Art Museum. Frederic Remington, The Masterworks. New York: Harry N. Abrams Publishers, Inc., 1988.
Information about Remington’s life accompanied by numerous examples of his work in various mediums.
Whybrow, Helen. Dead Reckoning, Great Adventure Writing from the Golden Age of Exploration, 1800-1900. New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc., 2003.
A collection of journal entries and personal accounts from various explorers, not just of North America, during the 19th century.
Widmark, Anne Heath. Poets of the Cowboy West, Between Earth and Sky. New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc., 1995.
A compilation of poems by contemporary poets who live and work the cowboy lifestyle.
Van Steenwyk, Elizabeth. Frederic Remington. United States: Franklin Watts, 1994.
A children’s book containing a biography of Remington and some of his work.
Venezia, Mike. Frederic Remington. United States: Children’s Press, 2002.
Another children’s book about Remington’s life and art.
This Website is generously funded by a grant from the Morgridge Family Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the William Randolph Hearst Endowment for Education Programs, The Virginia Hill Charitable Foundation, Colorado Creative Industries and the National Endowment for the Arts, Xcel Energy Foundation, the Anna and John J. Sie Foundation, and The Japan Foundation. We thank our colleagues at the University of Denver Morgridge College of Education.