Frederic Remington: The Fall of Cowboy

Born on 4th October 1861, in Canton, New York, Frederic Remington donned several hats – he was a painter, an illustrator, and a sculptor. Remington was among the few names in American art history who made their mark on the global art stage.

During his art career, Remington created over 3000 paintings and drawings, most of which were illustrations. However, many of these illustrations were created as art pieces because Remington had turned away from the publishing world.

Remington was best known for the most realistic portrayal of life in West America. In today’s article, we will dive into one of the most famous paintings of Frederic Remington titled “The Fall of Cowboy”. We will talk briefly about the style of the painting, the story behind it, and the compositions of the painting.

Depiction in the Fall of Cowboy

Frederic Remington: The Fall of Cowboy

Famous artist Frederic Remington, “The Fall of the Cowboy”, painted in 1895, captures the bleak reality of the demise of the cowboy lifestyle. However, the somber image offers empathy and respect for the dying lifestyle, which once embodied symbolism and freedom for America’s pioneers.

Known for depicting the old west in his art, Remington often painted cowboys, Native Americans, and the U.S. Cavalry in his paintings. Similarly, in “The Fall of the Cowboy”, Frederic Remington pictured two cowboys in their traditional garb in the middle of nowhere.

In the picture, one of the men is captured dismounted from his horse as he approaches the gate made of barbed wires. The fence seems to be endless as it divides the painting in half. Frederic Remington has made an amazing and interesting connection between the subjects: viewers can realize that they are divided by an unending fence, which tells us about the dying cowboy lifestyle.

The Composition

Talking about the composition of the painting, Remington has worked with a subdued palette and muted hues to create a moody, melancholic image. Incorporated with an overcast sky and snowy fields, the lack of fluidity and movement in the painting produces a quiet, almost eerie quality.

With the mute tone of the colors, the painting speaks absolutely nothing, perhaps signaling the end of the cowboy days. The somber tone of Remington’s painting conveys the artist’s intent to mourn the change in cowboy traditions and values.

His palette draws from a range of muted colors featured in many Western landscapes – a practice not uncommon among artists during this period, who were often called upon to depict rugged, isolated frontiers.

The Fall of Cowboy

Story Behind the Painting

The year was 1895 when Frederic Remington met Philadelphia-based writer Owen Wister, and the two quickly became very good friends. It was Remington himself who had suggested Owen Wister write about the cowboy era, which led to the article titled “The Evolution of the Cow-Puncher”.

Published in Harper’s Monthly magazine, the essay portrays the rise and fall of the legendary cowboy era in the American West. Meanwhile, the painting was the final illustration and one of five others associated with the article.

Years later, Frederic Remington’s “The Fall of Cowboy” again rose to fame when Owen Wister published his noteworthy novel titled “The Virginian” in 1902. Often termed the first true fictional western ever written, the novel talked about the cowboy’s life on a cattle ranch. Currently, the painting is displayed at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth, Texas.

The Fall of Cowboy in Real Life

This was during the late 1800s when the cowboys began to experience drastic transformation. Once considered a mythic figure personifying freedom, cowboys were becoming unessential.

For decades, cowboys had driven cattle across long distances to railheads and transported them to slaughterhouses. But, with the invention of the automobile, bucking horses were no longer needed, and so were cowboys. Moreover, with the expansion of transcontinental railroads, cowboys were running out of business.

However, this was only not the end of the road: the grazing cattle lands, which were once public, became private, leading to the demise of the American cowboy era. In the painting, this very transition from the old era to modern technological advancement is depicted by the dividing fence. Similarly, the cowboy figures are shown as if they understand that their time of extinction has finally arrived as America progresses toward technological advancement.

The Bottom Line

To sum up, Frederic Remington’s The Fall of Cowboy is genuinely one of the best artworks created by American artists. An artist who devoted his entire life to understanding and representing the life of the American West, Frederic Remington will always be known as one of the best American painters of all time.

While getting the original “The Fall of Cowboy” might not be easy, as long as one has millions in their bank, you can surely get a reproduction artwork of the painting via the 1st Art Gallery. One-stop shop for all your art requirements, 1st Art Gallery is known for providing original-like and amazing art replicas of almost every masterpiece created in art history.