The art of Frederic Remington defined the American West during his lifetime and played a major role in creating the popular image of the West that persists today. In both painting and sculpture, he portrayed the action and drama of the West. Remington’s subjects – the military, the cowboy and the American Indian – centered on conflict. In some of his best works, conflict was not only the subject, but also created the aesthetic tension of the artwork.
Although closely identified with the American West, Remington actually spent much of his life in the East. Born October 4, 1861, in Canton, NY, he was an only child. Remington attended the Yale College School of the Fine Arts for three semesters, beginning in 1878, and also played football on the Yale team. After his father died, he left school and started working as a reporter.
In 1881 he made his first trip west to Montana Territory and subsequently he sold his first sketch of cowboys to Harper’s Weekly. In 1883 he bought and worked a sheep ranch in Peabody, KS. Remington married Eva Adele Caten of Gloversville, NY. His ranch and other business ventures in Kansas City, MO, being unsuccessful, Remington ended his only Western residence and then traveled in the Southwest.
By the mid-1890s, Remington became one of the most popular and successful illustrators of the age. His drawings of cavalry troops, cowboys, and Indians filled popular periodicals such as Harper’s Weekly and Collier’s. His illustrational drawings trained him to use line effectively. Painting illustrations in black and white, such as The Mess Tent at Night, also guided him in controlling values, the degree of light and darkness. His success as an illustrator earned him the freedom to define his own themes, and he matured as an artist.