Visions of the American West

CHAPTER 5: Kicking up dust

If they weren’t painting craggy mountains or wideopen fields, artists in the AmericanWest were most likely trying to capture the athleticism of animals. The Charge [A Cavalry Scrap] by Frederic Sackrider Remington is an apt example: though the staggering canvas depicts a horde of horsemen, the horses themselves are the clear stars of the show. Solon H. Borglum, too, conveyed his reverence for western fauna by distilling the balletic art of the lasso in his bronze sculpture, Lassoing Wild HorsesOther artists, such as Tom Lea and Charles Marion Russell, clearly relished the muscular silhouettes of their majestic subjects in paintings such as The Lead Steer and Git ‘Em Out of There.

The Charge [A Cavalry Scrap]

Frederic Sackrider Remington
Canton, New York, 1861 - 1909, Ridgefield, Connecticut

The Charge [A Cavalry Scrap]
124.5 cm x 348 cm (49 in. x 137 in.)
Gift of Miss Ima Hogg, 1943

In 1906, the Knickerbocker Hotel in New York City commissioned artist Frederic Remington to paint a largescale work for its inauguration. "The Charge" (Remington’s largest painting) served as a monument to the tenacity of the frontiersman, theatrically depicted mid-battle. But Remington took equal delight in the musculature of the galloping horses—evidence of the artist’s awareness of recent photographic studies of horses in motion. The artist periodically traveled westward from his Brooklyn home to satisfy East Coast curiosity for tales of the American West, returning with images that helped shape popular notions of the “Wild West.” As the backdrop to the hotel’s lively Grille Room, this teeming panorama provided an exotic parallel to the hubbub of the hotel’s moneyed crowd.

Lassoing Wild Horses

Solon H. Borglum
Ogden, Utah, 1868 - 1922, Stamford, Connecticut

Lassoing Wild Horses
82.4 cm x 85.1 cm x 45.7 cm (32 7/16 in. x 33 1/2 in. x 18 in.)
Gift of C.R. Smith, 1972

Eight casts of "Lassoing Wild Horses" were made at the Susse Foundry in Paris in 1898, where the Blanton's cast was made, and at the Roman Bronze Works in New York in 1906. The base is stamped "3". It is the 3rd of eight casts made.

Top of the Ridge

Lafayette Maynard Dixon
Fresno, California, 1875 - 1946, Tucson, Arizona

Top of the Ridge
114.3 cm x 145.4 cm (45 in. x 57 1/4 in.)
Gift of C.R. Smith, 1976

Although Maynard Dixon was based in San Francisco for forty years, the Southwest captured his artistic imagination. Together with his wife, famed Depression-era photographer Dorothea Lange, he made numerous trips to Arizona and New Mexico, spending months living on a Hopi reservation. Dixon’s paintings of the West invoke a more modern sensibility than other depictions of the West in this gallery. “The melodramatic Wild West is not for me,” he once stated. “The more lasting qualities are in the quiet and more broadly human aspects of western life.” He was drawn to what he described as “the poetry and pathos of life of western people seen amidst the grandeur, sternness, and loneliness of their country.”

Image credit:
William Gilbert Gaul
The Land of the Free, circa 1900 (detail)
Oil on canvas
The Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin
Gift of C.R. Smith, 1976