Mountain Man

Artist: Frederic Remington
Mountain Man, a sculpture

Frederic Remington (1861-1909), Mountain Man, 1903, bronze cast (1918), 27 x 11 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, gift of Mrs. Grant Southwick.

Commentary by Jay H. Buckley
Associate Professor of History

New York born Frederic Remington represents something of a renaissance man—gifted as an author, painter, illustrator, and sculptor. Remington’s fame emanates from his late nineteenth century depictions of mythic cowboys, cavalrymen, and Indian warriors, especially his illustrations in publications like Collier’s Weekly, Scribner’s Monthly, Harper’s Monthly and Harper’s Weekly. Many of his works reveal an overarching theme of rugged independence and individualism, men aided in their quest by their trusty steeds, who joined together to roam the landscapes of the American West. This 27 inch x 11 inch bronze graphically depicts the intersection of man, beast, and landscape through the wild and perilous life of an unnamed Mountain Man.

Blending heroism, mythology, and romance, Remington depicts a buckskin clad, long-haired trapper engaging in a death-defying and treacherous descent down a steep mountain incline, perhaps to reach the stream below, which contained the object of his pursuit—beaver! Remington told a Cocoran Gallery of Art museum curator that “This Mountain Man I intend to be as one of those old Iroquois trappers who followed the fur companies in the Rocky Mountains in the 30’s and 40’s.” Depicting an Iroquois Indian as a mountain man is both ironic and historically accurate. Moreover, while it is true that some mountain men worked alone, more often than not they banded together in pairs or even formed brigades to systematically hunt and trap along western streams. Remington’s remarkable ability to convey the dangers, difficulties, and adventures of a mountain man during the heyday of the Rocky Mountain fur trade in the 1830s helped cement the fur trapper as an archetypal western icon in the American imagination.

 

Click here to read Professor Philip A. Snyder’s response

 

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Selected Sources:

Greenbaum, Michael D. Icons of the West: Frederic Remington’s Sculpture. New York: Frederic Remington Art Museum, 1996.

McCracken, Harold. Frederic Remington: Artist of the Old West. New York: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1947.