Sep 3, 2013

Visiting the Remington Art Museum in Ogdensburg

Of Frederic Remington, Teddy Roosevelt said, “The soldier, the
cowboy & rancher, the Indian, the horses and the cattle of the plains will live in his pictures and bronzes, I verily believe all time.” In the late 1800s Remington popularized the West through his illustrations in a variety of magazines including “Harper’s Weekly” and “Boy’s Life.”  He has been hailed as “The Interpreter of the West.” Today his bronze artworks are very recognizable. One of his most famous works is the “Bronco Buster,” one of which is part of the White House collection and can be seen in the background when the president is filmed in the Oval Office where it has been on display since 1976. 

Remington was born in nearby Canton but Ogdensburg served as his boyhood home. He left Yale after a few semesters and went west to seek his fortune but was unsuccessful as a sheep rancher and then as an investor in a hardware store so he returned to the East. Over the years Remington travel extensively throughout the west and made his name as an illustrator of western and military subjects.  He was with General George Custer and his men at the Battle of Little Big Horn. He witnessed the defeat of the Sioux at Wounded Knee in 1890 and traveled with the Rough Riders in Cuba. On display is his painting, “Charge up San Juan Hill.” He is reported to say, “I wish I had never left my native woods.”

Both he and his wife, Eva, loved the St. Lawrence region. Their
cottage, Ingleneuk, was on an island in Chippewa Bay. Of his cottage he said, “The door is never latched and the pantry is always full of pie.” The Frederic Remington Museum, the jewel of Ogdensburg, is housed in the beautiful 1810 Parish Mansion.  He spent a lot of his time in the area but he never lived in the Parish Mansion.  Remington died of complications associated with appendicitis at 48. His wife was invited by friends to live in the Parish Mansion which she did until 1918.  On the porch is
a large reproduction of his “Bronco Buster.” The visit starts in the mansion’s foyer. I loved the fireplace mantel with the woodcarving proclaiming, “Good Friend. Good Cheer. Good Fire.” Upstairs there are rotating art displays along with furniture and other items from the Remington estate. The Albert Priest Newell Gallery is connected to the mansion and showcases many of Remington’s works. The museum is home to the largest collection of Remington’s art and artifacts. 

Even though Remington is best remembered for his bronzes his
illustrations made him famous.  He illustrated Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Song of Hiawatha” and painted many scenes of Northern New York. He created 22 different subjects in bronze. On display are three versions of “The Cheyenne” made from three different castings.  Upon her death, Eva Remington asked Riccardo Bertelli who founded the Roman Bronze and cast most of Remington’s works to break all the molds. However, that did not happen right away. An original, signed "Cheyenne" sold at auction for $550,000, an identical copy for less than $800. Not long after his death the market was flooded with “Remingtons” that claimed to be authentic.  The most famous was a sculpture called the “Indian Dancer” created by an Austrian artist with a Remington signature. Teddy Roosevelt was correct – Remington’s fame has endured and will continue.