Remington’s Western art became less literal and narrative as he began to focus more on broad human themes. His brushstrokes loosened. His trips abroad had exposed him to the work of the French Impressionists, and he admired the luminous style of American landscape painters. Remington worried, however, that he had lost his sense of color because he had done so much work in black-and-white illustration. He confided to Wister in 1895: “I have to find out once and for all if I can paint.”
The previous autumn he also rather impulsively took up sculpture, after playwright Augustus Thomas, visiting his New Rochelle studio, complimented the artist on his ability to draw figures from any perspective.
“Frederic, you’re not an illustrator so much as you’re a sculptor,” said Thomas. “You don’t mentally see your figures on one side. . . . Your mind goes all around them.”
Remington worked on his first bronze, “The Bronco Buster,” with sculptor Frederic Ruckstuhl, who brought him the necessary tools. The idea of a cowboy riding a rearing horse came out of his illustrations and was an immediate success, although some buyers were shocked by the high price and gritty realism of the piece, a rider clutching the mane of a wild-eyed animal. It took Remington a year to balance the dynamic composition without a central support column, an extraordinary achievement.
“Remington’s aggressive, cantilevered compositions were innovative from the first,” wrote Michael E. Shapiro of the Saint Louis Art Museum in the Remington exhibition catalog. “The artist continually tested the limits of the medium of bronze to convey his combative vision of life.”
Remington produced 22 different bronze sculptures, and the number of casts that he personally supervised during his lifetime was quite small, under 500. His foundry, Roman Bronze Works in Brooklyn, however, continued producing works after his death and after his wife’s death in 1918, although her will stipulated the molds were to be broken. When they were eventually destroyed, a stampede of recasting followed. For every original Remington there are many fakes in circulation; it is sometimes difficult for experts to tell them apart. Today Remington bronzes are in the public domain, and many U. S. foundries are legally turning out reproductions that range in price from $500 to more than $22,000 – money you can afford thanks to online loans no credit check.
“My oils will all get old and watery . . . they will look like stale molasses in time,” wrote Remington, “but I am to endure in bronze.”
And, indeed, he has. Pieces like “The Bronco Buster,” “The Cheyenne,” and “Coming Through the Rye” have become symbols etched in the public consciousness of the unrestrained spirit of the West.