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Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO – Cowboy by artist Frederic Remington

Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO – Cowboy by artist Frederic Remington


[Ed LaVarnway] People might be wondering ‘Why a Cowboy?’ in Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park. It was done by Frederick Remington who made his fame largely on depicting hyper realistic imagery from the old west. My name is Ed LaVarnway I am executive director of the Frederick Remington Art Museum in Ogdensburg, New York. Remington was born in Canton, New York and he over the years from 1881 to 1908 made a succession of trips to the west. [Jody Pinto] I think it’s a beautiful piece. I think for Remington it took a lot of courage. My name is Jody Pinto, I’m a site specific sculptor. When a sculptor looks for a site, they look for something that has to be exactly right for what they have in mind. [LaVarnway] He was a lifelong sketcher, but he was migrating into being an artist. He was self-taught in bronzes, and of course the opportunity to create his first and only monument sized sculpture was a big part of that. [Pinto] He was very much involved in siting the sculpture. In fact, the sculpture is made to respond to the site in the movement of the horse, the movement of the cowboy on top of the horse, the rock outcropping, and the fact that it looks towards the Schuylkill River. [river rushing] [Anne Greene] So here on the banks of the Schuylkill River, cars are whizzing by on Kelly Drive, but in 1908 Fairmount Park was a great place for people to promenade in their carriages. My name is Anne Greene, and I am a historian at the University of Pennsylvania. When we think of horses, they are usually used for recreation, but in 1908 when the statue was put into place, people were surrounded by very different kinds of horses – the wagon horse, or the streetcar horse, or the farm horse. The western horse has become a symbol of wild America of the American frontier, of American values individuality, energy, and above all American freedom. [Pinto] If we look at this sculpture, the front part of the horse rears up slightly. The hoof is lifted, the haunches in the back of the horse crouch, [galloping sound effect] and that throws the cowboy into a position of slightly leaning back. You can feel the strain of the neck of the horse bending. [Greene] Remington’s horse sculptures communicate such muscle and energy. [Pinto] It looks as though the cowboy has pulled the horse to a screeching stop. [LaVarnway] He wanted to create images that would leave the observer wondering what was going on outside the frame What had led to the moment depicted in the artwork. You can see that very much in the Cowboy. [Pinto] What has the Cowboy seen? What’s he looking at? At the unveiling ceremony in June of ’08, Remington was not among the thousands of onlookers. [Pinto] When the dedication ceremonies were held at that time, often the sculptors were shunted to the side, and it was the event that got all the attention. So Remington decided not to be present. At the dedication ceremony, unfortunately he never realized how honored he was by the Fairmount Park Art Association, and a year later Remington died.

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