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    Description

    FREDERIC SACKRIDER REMINGTON (American, 1861-1909)
    Apache Signal Fire, circa 1891
    Oil en grisaille on canvas
    34 x 24 inches (86.4 x 61.0 cm)
    Signed lower right: Remington

    This lot is accompanied by an original copy of Century Magazine, March 1891.

    PROVENANCE:
    Kennedy Galleries, New York;
    Marge Schotts Collection, Cincinnati, 1961;
    Cowans Auctions, Cincinnati, Marge Schotts Collection / Spring Decorative Arts Sale, June 17, 2006, lot 573.

    EXHIBITED:
    Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati Collects Paintings, March 31-May 15, 1983. no. 83-1982-94 (label verso).

    LITERATURE:
    Century Magazine, March 1891, p. 655, illus.
    P. Hassrick and M. Webster, Frederic Remington: A Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings, Watercolors and Drawings, Cody, Wyoming, 1996, p. 376, no. 1231, fig. 1231, illus.

    In 1891, Century Magazine commissioned Frederic Remington to provide illustrations for Captain John G. Bourke's account of his travels with General George Crook in pursuit of Apache chief Cochise and his followers in the mountains and deserts of Arizona. Bourke's story was written some twenty years after Crook's successful campaign. Crook had made a name for himself during several Civil War battles and upon conclusion of the war was sent to quell Indian uprisings on several fronts, first in the Pacific Northwest, then Arizona, and finally in Montana. He proved to be an innovative adversary for the Native populations in all of these areas and was the first Army commander to utilize Native American Scouts.

    Remington was a likely choice for the assignment. He was one of the most widely known and successful illustrators of the day. He had traveled on assignment with Harper's Weekly across much of the same territory that Bourke wrote about, although some fifteen years later, and he had received much acclaim for his illustrations, also in Century Magazine and in Theodore Roosevelt's Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail. His success and prominence as one of the country's leading illustrators was all the more remarkable considering that his first full page illustration was published in Harper's a mere five years earlier, when he was only twenty-five.

    Ten years prior to the Bourke assignment, as a young man, fresh out of a year at Yale, and traveling on a small inheritance from his recently deceased father, Remington had made his first trip West to Montana. He had long dreamed of seeing the adventure and drama of the "Old West" in person. As a boy, he was thrilled by the stories of brave men in battle told to him by his father, who was a veteran of the Civil War. Years later, Remington recounted that first trip West in his memoirs and told of an incident that proved to change the course of his life. He met and shared a campfire with a grizzled freight wagon driver, the sort of man "with the bark on," that he would often portray in his later paintings and drawings. Remington excitedly told the driver of his expectations of what he would soon experience, only to be told that the West that Remington was pursuing was already rapidly vanishing with the advance of settlements and the establishment of towns and cities, even in remote Montana. Somewhat disheartened, Remington nevertheless decided that he would pursue an artistic career that would preserve what was left of the "Old West," before it was lost. After a few short-lived and failed business ventures in Montana and Kansas, he returned to New York, entered the Art Students League, and began a highly successful career as an illustrator, painter, and sculptor.

    By the time he painted Apache Signal Fire, he was already developing his mature style and talent. In fact, in this black and white illustration, one can already see the direction his art would take in the years ahead. At this point in his career, Remington's job was to provide pictures to accompany the words of other writers; the scenes that he painted were often dictated by the editors of the magazines that employed him. Yet even with such constraints, he was able to transcend the narrow confines of the assignment to produce sensitive and powerful paintings like this one. Even working with a very limited palette, which was dictated by the fact that his illustrations would be reproduced in black and white, Remington through the use of shadings and differing tones was able to create an atmosphere, which is at once realistic and highly evocative. He skillfully used the light from the campfire to guide the viewer's eye to the surrounding figures, who are subtly revealed in varying degrees of light and shadow. The overall effect is one of an eerie solitude. When executing the painting, he perhaps had Bourke's description of an Apache campfire in mind, "The fitful gleam of the glowing flame gave a Macbethian tinge to the weird scene and brought into bold relief the grim outlines of the cliffs...."

    Although in later years Remington increasingly chafed under the title of illustrator and sought to be recognized as an accomplished easel painter, in this painting, he shows that he was already adept at producing paintings that far exceeded the simple assignment of providing a picture to accompany an article. Apache Signal Fire certainly is drawn from Bourke's account of the campaign to capture Cochise, but it stands alone as an excellent painting in its own right. Today, one does not need more information regarding the campaign than what Remington provides us here. He has deftly captured a time and place that transcends both. In this painting, we can see an accomplished talent that would only grow in subsequent years.


    Michael W. Duty

    Michael Duty is the founding director of the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art,
    former Director of the Rockwell Museum of Western Art, and notable western author.





    Condition Report*: The following condition report was prepared by Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc.: This painting has been lined but is generally in very respectable condition. The painting is most likely slightly dirty and has an older varnish which has discolored and which makes clear reading under ultraviolet light slightly challenging. However, there are a few tiny dots of restoration visible across the top of the painting and in the background on the upper left side. There are a few other retouches in the back of the crouching figure nearest the fire. Under ultraviolet light there are some faint green touches in the light grey and center of the left side which are also retouches. Other than these and perhaps a few other tiny spots, the painting is in very good state. Cleaning is recommended since this will brighten the paint layer noticeably.
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    May, 2011
    17th Tuesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 3
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 7,493

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    19.5% of the successful bid (minimum $14) per lot.

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