The West as a wild and untamed frontier

Essay by natasha029University, Bachelor's February 2004

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The West as a wild and untamed frontier is now a thing of the past, and we are left only with the imagery of those who were there to chronicle it as it was. Painter and sculptor Frederic Remington was one of those chroniclers, and is considered by many to be one of the best. In his brief career as a Western artist, which began around 1885 and ended with his untimely death in 1909, Remington left a number of messages about the West in his work, but here we will deal with three major themes. First, that the West was a place of danger and violence; second, that Remington honestly depicted more than just the White, European presence in the West; and third, that toward the end of his career, Remington began to allude to the closing of the West as a frontier.

While a number of Remington's works are serene, and depict the everyday life of the West, in many of his works there is an element of danger and even violence; "his work persistently puts off all hints of prettiness in favor of violence," writes Vorpahl.1

This theme is already present in Remington's earliest works. "The Apaches Are Coming"2 from 1885 is a good example, where a frantic vaquero stops his horse briefly to tell a group of homesteaders of the impending danger. In the apparently defenseless homesteaders faces can be seen both fear and hopelessness.

The theme of danger and violence is the central characteristic of "Attack on the Supply Train"3 also from 1885. Here a group is seen defending their supply wagons from an unseen danger, but one that is quite obviously Indians, in that arrows can be seen lodged in the wagons. Throughout the work can be seen the desperation of trying not only...