Saturday, January 12, 2008


Cowboy illustrator Frederic Remington seemed to find a whole rainbow of luminous colors in the night.

When other painters might reach for a dark blue, Remington reaches for greens and purples and violets.

Did Remington actually see these colors in nature? Even Cezanne, the grandaddy of abstract art, recognized that "painting from nature is not copying the object; it is realizing one's sensations."

To understand more about Remington's "sensations," look at his pictures contrasting the light from the immense night sky with the tiny, fragile light of humans.

It must have been easy to feel insignificant and defenseless camping out all alone under the huge western sky.


Mark said...

Wow,these just blow me away. The winter scences actually make me shiver. Western art was some of the first art I was ever exposed to as a child and although I seldom look at it anymore I'm still impressed by the talent of some of it's practioners. Thanks David.

Gary said...

I've seen some of this work before and it is quite beautiful.

We had a Victorian artist in the UK who specialised in moonlit paintings, John Atkinson Grimshaw ( )who came from my home city, our city art gallery has several examples of his work and it is far more stunning than can be portrayed on a web site - its a hell of a skill.

Brian said...

The mood and lighting of the paintings are really amazing. I really like how cold that canoe at sunrises is and I agree the snow scenes feel pretty cold. Thanks for posting the samples for us.

I have been reading the blog of painter James Gurney and he has been talking about painting different moods. This fits with his posts very nicely. Makes me want to go paint.

spacejack said...

These are fantastic illustrations. Great choice of topic.

Do you know what they were illustrations for?

WalkerTalker & Bronco610 said...

Thanks for mentioning one of my favorite artists. I too have always been amazed at his lighting in night scenes. Especially since for many of his artworks he only drew sketches while travelling out on the Western range, and then back in his studio in the East he would paint the artworks. It's amazing how he could paint these colors so convincingly while in his studio.

To SpaceJack- Remington illustrated for Collier's and Harper's magazines.

BTW, thanks for this blog, I've been enjoying it for several months now. The views are quite inspiring for budding artist college students such as myself. Keep it up.

Eric Hamlin said...

These are beautiful paintings, but they really point out the pitfalls of displaying art on the internet. My monitor either darkens everything or lightens it and all the subtle color gets lost. However, I'm determined to seek out the originals now.
Thanks for the consistent inspiration.

David Apatoff said...

Mark, I'm like you-- I enjoyed western art as a boy, but so much of it was heavy handed, I lost interest as I matured. Now I've circled back to Remington and N.C. Wyeth in particular. They are brilliant!

Thanks, Gary. I know it is the same moon over Texas and England, but Grimshaw's nocturnes somehow seem so much more civilized to me. The difference between faeries and cowpokes, I guess.

Brian, thanks for the link to Gurney's website, which is great.I will be spending some time there.

Spacejack, walkertalker and eric, I first saw these original paintings and many more like them in a traveling exhibition that came to the National Gallery of Art, organized by Nancy K. Anderson. They took my breath away. There is an excellent catalog which I believe you can still find on Amazon.

Anonymous said...

The snowfield and canoe pictures are amazing. I didn't know Remington could work at that level of mood and atmosphere.

That John Atkinson Grimshaw is superb as well. So many great artists I still don't know about.

Kenn said...

I don't know if anyone's heard of Blood Meridian by Cormac Mcarthy? These paintings are so so so so so perfect for that book. Amazing!

Shane White said...

I grew up 30 minutes from Ogdensburg, New York where his museum stands today. A couple years back I visited again and saw many of these paintings in person.

Funny thing is, one of the curators said that Frederic Remington was actually color blind.

But I've yet to find a reference to this...though...something tells me it could possibly be quite true. I've known of a color blind painter that used to paint along side me at this one session. His values were spot on, and his color was good...but always a little off from what was actually there.

Sometimes I think the color blindness might actually free you up to create more engaging and imaginative color harmonies.