Characterizing the American Indians (Kaesey Atkinson)

Though the use of the basic formal elements of art and principles of design, artist Frederic Remington was able to capture the characteristics of the American Indians in the American West. These characteristics are what we link to their culture and are recognizable to us in today's society. Remington used these elements and principles in various mediums to create some of his greatest masterpieces, including his bronze statues, some of which are exhibited here.

The use of black and white color with numerous tints and shades dominate this image of two American Indians riding around a group of westward settlers. With this strong tonal contrast, Remington was able to show high details of texture in the foreground. He is able to show how this particular American Indian was able to hang onto the side of his horse to shield him from being seen by the outsiders. Moving into the background, we get a real sense of depth and space since the objects are smaller and less detailed.
Remington once again used the high contrast of black and white color to show the American Indians on the hunt of a Buffalo and her calf. Emphasis is put onto the Buffalo and her calf by using slightly darker shades on their forms. This painting also has a lot of variety. Your eyes dart from the chase in the foreground and then move to the background to investigate the frantic chase of the herd. The foreground and background as also proportionally balanced, which adds to the variety of the piece.
The dark shades represented in this image set the mood for the mysterious ritual of these American Indians worshiping a horse God. The first aspect you may notice within the frame is the fire, dominated by the color white, and then follow the line up through the smoke to a figure that is barely visible above. The contrasting color of white on black allows the outline of the horse jump out of the dark and appear as a true apparition on canvas.
Remington showcases his perfection of black and white contrast in his works. As we see here, a medicine man kneels at the deathbed of a fallen soul. The dark values used here possibly signify death as the patient is not easily recognizable on the canvas. The medicine man himself is shown in the fire light, which could signify life. Remington also did not spend much time putting much detail into this work and only worked on defining shapes and figures on the piece.
Remington is most famous for his works in sculpture. Here we see a Cheyenne warrior atop his stead charging after his prey, possibly a buffalo or to a fight with the American Cavalry. He was able to put a great amount of detail into his sculpture, therefore showing different textures. For example, you can see the muscle tones of the horse as he runs and the fur of the buffalo hide on the horse's back that is being used as a makeshift saddle.
An American Indian raising the hide of a buffalo as a prize after his hunt is another example of Remington's incredibly detailed sculptures. It not only is a great example of texture, but of movement and balance as well. When you view the piece, you can almost feel that the Indian is about to throw the hide from his hand. Instead it is frozen in time above his head, which adds to the balance of the piece. The Indian is centered on horseback giving the statue overall stability.
Remington uses earthly tones in his colored oil paintings, keeping in line with the American Indians having close ties to nature. In this image, we see a group of fanning the flames of a signal, possibly for the rest of their hunting party to a buffalo herd. Although all three are focused on looking to the left of the painting, the line through the smoke from the fire makes us gaze to the Indian on horseback, emphasizing the fact he is the leader. Also, he wears light blue moccasins, which could be a symbol of power or leadership.
In this image, Remington used color and texture to characterize a horse that has been ridden to its limits and on the brink of death as his rider stands by, offering a prayer to his God. When you look closely at the horse, you can see that his body is ridden of muscle tone and every bone protruding from his body is seen. To the right, you can see the well horses and their riders moving off away from the foreground. This well proportioned scale allows this warrior to have a moment alone with his trusty steed before death.
Remington has been known to have done some Impressionism work in his lifetime. Here is an example of how quick brushstrokes were used to create this image of American Indians on horseback with buffalo hides pulled over their backs to imitate two buffalo. These brushstrokes allow movement to set into the piece, as it seems the wind is pushing over the plains and through the grass at the horses hooves. Also, this image is proportional from foreground to background, creating a great sense of space and depth.
The American Indians were also known for performing rituals in their common places. Shades are used to imitate the fire light bouncing off the dancers and their viewers. He used dark forms in the foreground to give the viewer a sense of being part of the crowd. This also adds to the feeling of three-dimensional space.
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