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VERSO
Titled
Label, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, CA
Label, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, CA
Label, Pasadena Art Institute, Pasadena, CA 1-4-50

Casuals on the Range is included in the Frederic Remington Catalogue Raisonné as number 2897.

PROVENANCE
The John J. “Jack” Mitchell Collection
Present owners, by descent

LITERATURE
Peter H. Hassrick and Melissa J. Webster, Frederic Remington: A Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings, Watercolors and Drawings, Vol II (Cody, WY: Buffalo Bill Historical Center, 1996), p 830, illustrated halftone


CASUALS ON THE RANGE

This oil is one of about twenty narrative paintings Remington completed in his final year of life. It was a canvas that he created expressly for a client in Chicago, Winfield Scott Thurber who ran an art gallery by that name and was possibly a childhood friend of Remington’s. A dozen years Remington’s senior, Thurber was born in the Ogdensburg area where Remington grew up and he went from there, like Remington, into the art business though as a commercial dealer rather than a painter and sculptor. Thurber embarked on his enterprise in Chicago, starting the Thurber Art Gallery in 1880.

Remington had used Thurber as a conduit for his art over the years. Thurber’s clients generally wanted smaller paintings and Casuals on the Range fit that description perfectly. According to Remington’s diaries, he began the painting in early April 1909. Despite his boast at this time that he could complete a painting in one day, “Casuals,” as he called it, took almost two weeks to finish. Thurber had a particular client in mind and, by the end of June, advised Remington he had sold it. Remington would net $400. (1909 diaries, Frederic Remington Art Museum archives)

The theme of Casuals on the Range is one that Remington had explored since the late 1880s. The earliest variation on that motif was an ink drawing he called A Questionable Companionship (1889, Buffalo Bill Center of the West) in which an Indian and a cowboy ride parallel to one another with a packhorse between them. The subject, as Remington presented it, was one of adversarial accommodation, revealing both parties as leery of the other’s intentions. In Casuals on the Range, that trope of suspicion has vanished. The two protagonists face one another, their horses’ necks are almost intertwined and the expressions on the faces of the two men are friendly. Perhaps the artist was trying to suggest that both the cowboy and the Indian saw their lifeways imperiled at this time, so they were bonded by sharing a mutual, externally imposed threat.

The style and technique employed in this work show Remington at his mature best. The backdrop of sage prairie and bluffs is broadly brushed in a muted, impressionist mode, which makes the vigorously articulated figures stand out. Their forms literally vibrate on the canvas, a result that pleased Remington greatly in these years and that lends vivacity and drama to what might otherwise be regarded as a somewhat mundane narrative.

Peter H. Hassrick
Director Emeritus and Senior Scholar
Buffalo Bill Center of the West

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