Frederic Remington 1861 - 1909
- Frederic Remington
- Bronco Buster
- inscribed Copyright by Frederic Remington with the Roman Bronze Works N.Y. foundry mark and numbered N-108- beneath the base
- bronze, dark brown patina
By descent in the family to the present owner (his grandson)
Harold McCracken, The Frederic Remington Book: A Pictorial History of the West, Garden City, New York, 1966, illustration of another example fig. 360
Peter H. Hassrick, Frederic Remington: Paintings, Drawings, and Sculpture in the Amon Carter Museum and the Sid W. Richardson Foundation Collections, New York, 1973, no. 76, p. 181, illustration of another example p. 180
Michael Edward Shapiro, Cast and Recast: The Sculpture of Frederic Remington, Washington, D.C., 1981, pp. 63-69, 92, illustrations of other examples figs. 21, 44-54
Michael Edward Shapiro and Peter H. Hassrick, Frederic Remington: The Masterworks, New York, 1988, pp. 66, 186, 195, 206-207, 210, 211, 214, illustration of another example p. 172
Michael D. Greenbaum, Icons of the West: Frederic Remington's Sculpture, Ogdensburg, New York, 1996, pp. 51-64, 181, illustrations of other examples pp. 52, 53, 57-64
Though not formally trained as a sculptor, Remington once facetiously explained "I always had a feeling for mud [modeling] and I did that ... I wanted to do something a burglar wouldn't have, moths eat, or time blacken." The Bronco Buster, conceived and cast in 1895, is Remington's first and most celebrated sculpture in bronze. Its composition, inspired by Remington's earlier illustration for the April 30, 1892 Harper's Weekly, referenced the artist's own photographs of riders and their rearing horses. The photographs froze the action, allowing Remington to capture every detail of the intense kinetic energy of horse and rider suspended in three dimensions. The Bronco Buster achieved immediate critical and popular success. Almost an entire page was devoted to a review of the work in Harper's Weekly in October 1895, with Arthur Hoeber commenting: "Breaking away from the narrow limits and restrains of pen and ink on flat surface, Remington has stampeded as it were, to ... greater possibilities .... The action is stirring, though not forced, and the sculptor has seized all of the possibilities of the situation with rare judgment."
Remington held the cowboy in high esteem, once remarking: "With me, cowboys are what gems and porcelain are to some others" (as quoted in Icons of the West, 1996, p. 51). The "bronco busters" were professional horse breakers whose tough and dangerous lifestyles were legendary. Their job was to tame the wild ponies, annually rounded up from the range, by saddling and riding them, literally breaking their wild spirits. The Bronco Buster was the first western bronze to commemorate the cowboy as a heroic figure in American history. It captures a moment of extreme tension as the untamed wild pony rears up, forcing the cowboy to stretch his arm out for balance as he struggles to remain in the saddle. Remington commented that "Only those who have ridden a bronco for the first time it was saddled, or have lived through a railroad accident, can form any conception of such an experience" (Frederic Remington: Artist of the Old West, 1947, p. 88). Remington's precise attention to detail as an illustrator translated well into sculpture and he meticulously crafted the holster, stirrups, and quirt, even adding a brand of a triangle inscribed in a circle on the horse's rear.
Despite the fact he initially struggled with composing the original model for the bronze, the sinuous unencumbered silhouette of the two-foot statuette was beyond the aspirations of any other American sculptor of the period; consequently The Bronco Buster became the most popular bronze sculpture of the nineteenth century, and likely the most profitable. Ever the businessman, Remington soon realized the financial attraction of works in bronze, since royalties from his sculptures continued to come in long after the original mold was cast. Shapiro notes "Unlike his illustrations, whose reproduction Remington could not control after he supplied the original to a publishing house, he could order the production of bronzes and he was paid a commission for each cast produced" (Frederic Remington: The Masterworks, 1988, p. 186).
Remington produced his original 23 inch version at the Henry Bonnard Foundry, using the sand casting method, which allowed for each cast to remain true to Remington's original dramatic model. The bronze was made of ten individually-cast pieces that were then brazed together before a rich brown patina was applied. This method produced a greater amount of consistency. In 1901 Remington began reproducing the work at Roman Bronze Works, which used the lost-wax method, and Remington soon started to modify and change a number of details. These later variations included changes to the hat's brim, the rider's hand holding the quirt, and even the flare of the horse's tail. For a time, the artist even gave the rider woolly chaps, but Remington did not make many significant changes after 1906.