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  • Frederic Remington
    Oct 4, 1861 - Dec 26, 1909
  • The Old Stage Coach of the Plains - Frederic Sackrider Remington was an American very significant artist, illustrator, sculptor, and writer who specialized in depictions of the Old American West, specifically concentrating on the last quarter of the 19th century American West and images of cowboys, American Indians, and the U.S. Cavalry.
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The Old Stage Coach of the Plains
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  • The Old Stage Coach of the Plains

  • Frederic Remington
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  • 1901
    Oil on canvas
    102.24 cm (40.25 in.) x 69.22 cm (27.25 in.)
    Amon Carter Museum, United States.

    As the twentieth century began, Remington found himself very busy with commissions from several magazines. One of these was to illustrate a three-part series by Emerson Hough titled “The Settlement of the West: A Study in Transportation,” for The Century Magazine. Echoing the popular beliefs of the period, Hough approached his subject with a general nostalgia for what he termed the “glorious drama” of the history of the West. One of the illustrations Remington produced was taken from the evocative painting seen here; it appeared as a color plate in the January 1902 issue of the magazine, to accompany the second installment of Hough’s epic story. The author described the great days of stagecoach travel, including the two-thousand mile run from Atchison, Kansas to Helena, Montana, which taxed even the most hardy travelers. Hough also noted that the stagecoaches sometimes fell prey to robbers or hostile Indians, so there was always the possibility of danger. The need for vigilance seems to be the subject of Remington’s painting, which shows a stagecoach traveling in a nocturnal landscape. Sitting atop the coach and silhouetted against the starlit sky is a watchful figure holding a rifle. The whole work is loosely painted with shadowy hues that occasionally are marked with glimmering highlights of color. Just a few years earlier, in 1899, Remington had seen an exhibition of nocturnal scenes by the California artist Charles Rollo Peters at the Union League Club. Inspired by that exhibition, Remington began to experiment with a more narrow and muted color range in some of his paintings, including The Old Stage Coach of the Plains. Gradually, as he does here, Remington began to eliminate detail from his works in favor of a more general mood and atmosphere. In this painting, the viewer senses a feeling of tension and foreboding, evoked not only by the artist’s use of subject matter, but also color and form.

    The Old Stage–Coach of the Plains is one of Remington's most dramatic early nocturnes. Against a starry night sky, the candlelit coach tumbles forward into the viewer’s space. A guard, his rifle poised, sits atop the coach scanning the horizon for danger, again, undefined.

    Critics quickly took notice of Remington’s nocturnes and applauded his efforts, but the artist himself remained discouraged by what he perceived as his inability to capture accurately the colors of night. In 1905 he expressed his frustration to a friend: “I’ve been trying to get color in my things and still I don’t get it. Why why why can’t I get it. The only reason I can find is that I’ve worked too long in black and white. I know fine color when I see it but I just don’t get it and it’s maddening. I’m going to if I only live long enough.”

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Other paintings by Frederic Remington:

The Stampede
The Stampede
The Cowpunchers Lullaby
The Cowpunchers Lullaby
When His Heart is Bad
When His Heart is Bad
Night Halt of the Cavalry
Night Halt of the Cavalry
Frederic Sackrider RemingtonFrederic Sackrider Remington was a very significant artist, skilled as a writer and lauded as an illustrator, painter and sculptor. His subtle and powerful work made him the premier chronicler of the late nineteenth century American West. The son of a newspaper publisher, Remington was born in Canton, New York in 1861. He began sketching as a boy. After attending a Massachusetts military academy from 1876 to 1878, he entered the newly formed Yale University Art School in New Haven, Connecticut. His father's death in 1880 induced him to leave school and briefly take on clerical work in Albany, New York.

During a short journey West in 1881, Remington received a glimpse of the life and land that would influence and inspire the rest of his life. The trip, consisting of sketching, prospecting and cow punching from Montana to Texas, resulted in his first published illustration in Harper's weekly in 1882. In 1883, he bought a sheep ranch in Kansas, which served as a home base for more trips throughout the Southwest, where he sketched horses, cavalrymen, cowboys and Indians. Remington sold the ranch in 1884, and established a studio in Kansas City, Missouri.

Returning to New York City in 1885, Remington quickly became a successful illustrator, his work appearing in many publications. He began writing and illustrating his own books and articles as well, giving Eastern America what became the accepted vision of the American West. Wanting greater acceptance as a fine artist, he studied at the Art Students League in New York City for a few months in 1886. Remington began submitting his paintings to exhibitions, but his illustrations remained the primary source of his remarkable reputation. Remington did start winning prizes for his paintings in the early 1890s. His work consisted of visual narratives of the old West, with landscape secondary to the figure. In 1895, Remington produced his first bronze sculpture: The Bronco Buster (a cast in the Metropolitan Museum of Art), which immediately became popular and was followed by 24 other bronzes. His ability to exhibit a strong sense of life and movement in a three dimensional work was recognized.

After moving to a farm in Connecticut, where he established an art gallery and library surrounded by collected Western memorabilia and artifacts, Remington began to experiment with a kind of impressionism around 1905. Many American artists were attracted to the style during that period, but Remington never really ceased to be a realist.

Remington died in Ridgefield, Connecticut in 1909 after a sudden attack of appendicitis, leaving a legacy of more than 2,750 paintings and drawings and 25 sculptures from which multiple casts were made. In addition, he had written eight books and numerous articles about the American West, and served in the Spanish American War as a war correspondent. He was the most important artist ever to record the vanishing Western frontier.