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Frederic Remington, “Friends or Foes? (The Scout),” circa 1900–05, oil on canvas, 27 by 40 inches. Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Mass.

Frederic Remington, “Dismounted: The Fourth Trooper Moving the Led Horses,” 1890, oil on canvas, 341/16 by 4815/16 inches. Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Mass.


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WILLIAMSTOWN, MASS. — More than any other artist of the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries, Frederic Remington’s art shaped America’s vision of the West. “Remington Looking West,” at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute through May 4, explores how Remington saw the West, how he created his images and how his vision evolved throughout his career.

Sterling and Francine Clark purchased three works by the artist: the paintings “Friends or Foes? (The Scout)” and “Dismounted (The Fourth Troopers Moving the Led Horses)” and the sculpture “The Wounded Bunkie.” “Remington Looking West” focuses on these iconic works, placing them with others from public and private collections to give a fuller context to the artist’s career.

Central to the exhibition is the idea of looking, of surveillance and reconnaissance as skills that were as important to the artist as they were to the scouts, trappers and soldiers he portrayed. Through his own careful study of the West, Remington enlivened his work with rich detail that contributed greatly to the public’s perception of the paintings as historically accurate. To demonstrate this, the exhibition includes photographs, sketches and scrapbooks from Remington’s personal collection.

Michael Conforti, director of the Clark, said, “In ‘Remington Looking West,’ we look at not only how these works fit into his career and life, but how Remington grounded his art in vibrant details to produce a compelling and convincingly authentic image of the West, even while working in his New York studio.”

Drawing largely upon archival material from the Frederic Remington Art Museum in Ogdensburg, N.Y., “Remington Looking West” includes several of Remington’s youthful sketches, examples of his illustrations, and preparatory studies for paintings. Also included are examples of illustrations — the kind of visual reference material Remington consulted to ensure a sense of accuracy and authenticity, including scrapbooks filled with clippings of animals in motion, and examples of late Nineteenth Century ethnographic photography of American Indians.

Remington, born and raised in upstate New York, began his career as an illustrator in the mid-1880s after a few years living and traveling in the West and a failed attempt at sheep ranching. By 1887 he was participating in significant national exhibitions, including the National Academy of Design’s annual exhibitions and those at the American Art Galleries. Three of Remington’s large-scale paintings shown at the American Art Gallery and their preliminary sketches are included in the exhibit.

Remington’s bronze sculptures also captured equine drama; his first, “Broncho Buster” (Williams College Museum of Art), was both a critical and commercial success. “The Wounded Bunkie,” a more ambitious composition, did not fare well in the market, and only a dozen casts are known, making the Clark’s version especially rare.

“Remington Looking West” is organized by the Clark and curated by Cody Hartley, assistant curator of American art.

The Clark Art Institute is at 225 South Street. For information, www.clarkart.edu or 413-458-2303.

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