FREDERIC REMINGTON IN KANSAS
The following article, culled from the FRAHS
archives in the Frederic Remington High School Library, was written
by Frederic Remington High School student, Phil Epp, in December 4, 1969.
The accompanying Frederic Remington paintings, sketches , etc. used by
Frederic Remington Art Museum
, Ogdensburg , NY.
Remington’s Early Years
Remington’s Life in Kansas
The Art Work Done By Remington
Remington’s life and Art After Kansas
One of the most significant names in western art
would have to be Frederic Remington. Remington contributed a
large number of sketches, oils, and sculptures depicting the old
American West as he saw it and lived it- during its vanishing;
days as a wild empire, From his birthplace in New York to Yale
University to the Kansas prairie and then all over the world, he
illustrated and wrote about what he saw in a dramatic and many
times sensitive manner. One of his close friends, Theodore
Roosevelt, had this to say about Frederic Remington:
The soldier, the cowboy and the rancher, the
Indian, the horse and the cattle of the plains, will live in his
pictures and his bronzes, I verily believe, for all time.
Frederic Remington was born in 1861 in Canton,
New York, the son of a newspaper publisher. At the age of ten,
he began drawing pictures of objects around him. His favorite
subject was horses. At this time he was appointed official
mascot of Canton’s Fire Engine House No.1, where he sketched the
fire horses. Soon after this he became interested in depicting
frontier clashes between the cavalry and Indians. This became,
of course, one of his favorite subjects until his death.
At the age of seventeen, Remington began formal art training at
Yale University. More important to Remington, however, than his art training was his position as "rusher" on the Yale
football team and his intercollegiate heavyweight boxing. He
later illustrated some of Yale's football clashes in Harper’s
Weekly. One important acquaintance of Remington’s at Yale was
.Robert Camp. It was Camp who later encouraged Remington to come
In 1880 Remington's father died and left Frederic several
thousand dollars. He then, after a year and a half at Yale, quit
school and began traveling in the western states of Montana, the
Dakotas, Texas, and the Arizona territory. He conceived the idea
of depicting and recording the vanishing era of the old west
following this trip. At this point Remington began portraying
some of his excursions to the west through illustrations and
written articles in Harper's Weekly.
Following his school years at Yale, Remington corresponded with
his friend Robert Camp, Camp, who graduated in 1882 from Yale,
set up sheep ranching on the plains of Butler County, Kansas. He
strongly encouraged Remington to join him in this venture.
Remington probably would have preferred to set up cattle
ranching rather than sheep ranching, but due to insufficient
funds decided to join his friend in Kansas.
Camp made the necessary arrangements for a small ranch next to
his on which Remington would live. In 1883 Remington said
farewell to his friends and family in New York and set out for
the plain of Kansas. Butler County during this time was a
prosperous sheep raising, area and many single men other than
Remington decided to enter the carefree life of sheep ranching.
Some of these single men became close friends of Remington and
Camp during that Year in Kansas. Two of these were Charlie, an
Englishman, and Bill Kerr, who worked for Remington. One of the
first chores performed by Remington was that of purchasing a
horse. He purchased a half breed Texas and thoroughbred of a
light gold dust color.
She was promptly named
Terra-Cotta, although to the other boys on the ranch, who had
not had the advantage of a year and a half at Yale art school,
she was called Terry.
Apparently Remington's early months on the Kansas prairie were
quite happy and fulfilling: "The gallop across the prairie," he
wrote in describing an early morning ride to Bob Camp’s place,
"was glorious. The light haze hung over the plains, not yet
dissipated by tie rising sun. Terra-Cotta's stride was steel
springs under me as she swept along, brushing the dew from the
grass on the range."
His life on the prairie, even though quite fulfilling, was not
as exciting as his letters sent to New York. An example of this
would be a hasty letter which he wrote to a legal friend in
Canton, New York:
May 11, '83, Peabody
Papers came all right—are the cheese—man just shot down the
According to historical records such an event never took place.
It makes one question the authenticity of his dramatic portrayal
of the west. Remington's personality while in Kansas ranged from being
extremely boisterous and jovial to one of near depression:
Several acquaintances who knew him then recalled that he was
inclined to be melancholy, "moody beyond anything I had ever
seen in man" reported one of his friends. "In his moments of
despair he was not only morose but recluse. He hid from the
majority of all his fellows save one, a chap of his own age,
James Chapman, who hovered near as something of a guardian
angel." The cause of this attitude is now hard to ascertain. All
his life Remington was inclined to be volatile—for a time
intensely enthusiastic, then despairing; but as he grew older
this behavior gradually disappeared. Possibly the youthful
Remington, when he first reached Kansas, had been disappointed
in love or it may have been that one of his chief interests in
life —drawing— had as yet brought him little satisfaction, or
the death of his father, all may have played a part. But in the
development of his new life the melancholia wore off and
Remington soon become more jovial and was well-known and popular
over the countryside.
One activity which is referred to in numerous books in
connection with his year in Kansas was that of "coursing jacks" This activity consisted of chasing a jack rabbit and touching
it with a 1ong stick. Touching the rabbit was seldom a success,
but the sport seemed to be very enjoyable for Remington and his
young friends. Remington made numerous sketches of this
activity, one of which is illustrated in the supplementary
material of this report.
Another activity ………told about occurred during a
grade school Christmas program at nearby Plum Grove. Apparently
Remington and his friends who attended the affair decided to
throw spitballs at one of the community’s prominent citizens.
This behavior was immediately reprimanded, and Remington and his
friends were asked to leave the school building. They reacted to
their being expelled by building a fire near the school house.
As the fire became visible to the individuals inside the school
house, Remington began yelling "Fire, fire!" Apparently some
people became SO alarmed that they literally ran out of the
doors, some even exited through the windows. This activity made
Remington extremely unpopular with most of the more upstanding
members of the community, and some of them even filed a warrant
for his arrest. This public disapproval of the boisterous and
"wild" Remington was probably one reasons for his leaving Kansas
that following spring.
While in Kansas, Remington continued to draw nearly every
thing around him. The walls of his farmhouse were filled with
sketches of horses, sheep, and his friends. He went to Plum
Grove and sketched the preacher who visited the schoolhouse on
Sundays and the sketch was passed around, the audience. Many
evenings a crowd including children would gather at Remington's
house to watch him draw. He would often sketch friends as they
boxed. This was a popular pastime with the young ranchers;
however, few chanced a match with Remington who was considered
somewhat of a professional.
Many of the sketches done at this time appear to be
proportionally inaccurate and somewhat elementary considering
the realistic quality of his later work. One picture of
Camp (click here) ………is evidence of this.
Regardless of the quality of his sketches at this time, he
continued to send illustrations to Harper’s Weekly, and
originated Some sketches which later developed into significant
works. One such sketch which later influenced an oil painting
called "The Cowboy," also influenced his first, and one of his
most famous bronze sculptures, "The Bronco Buster.
famous painting which originated in Kansas was one depicting
General Custer’s war with the Indians in Montana called "Last
The letter from Lakewood Brown to Mr. Elwood King…………would verify that
Remington's year in Kansas was influential to his later
success as an artist and should by no means be considered an
insignificant year of his life.
In the spring of 1884 Remington left Kansas for the Southwest.
It was here that his most prominent paintings and bronzes were
depicted. His oils show environmental quality through the use of
"cold" blues and vibrant reds. The "individualness" of the
cowboys, soldiers, Indians, and mountain men take on an almost
caricature-type quality. One thing which is not often recognized
in regard to Remington’s later work is that it appears much more
"brushy," almost impressionistic. An example of this is one of
his last paintings called "The Sentinel."
It is interesting to note that not all of "Remington's later
work was done depicting the American west. He often returned to
New York and finally set up his studio there. From New York he
took frequent trips back to the west, and one rather extensive
trip through Europe, Africa, and Asia. He illustrated and wrote
stories in the Harper Harper’s New Monthly Magazine concerning
his trip abroad and sketched numerous pictures of the slave
markets in Africa.
Remington's works have since been used to illustrate many books
concerning the old American west, and are present in some of the United States' largest museums--
Remington Art Museum , Ogdensburg , NY . Remington succeeded in
depicting an era of American history which, but for his work,
may be remembered differently today.