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Monday, September 30, 2019

Illustrators #27 (Autumn 2019)

The new issue of Illustrators celebrates the art of the Wild West, and for the most part the real Wild West rather than the imagined wildness of the western comic strip, magazine story or novel.

Two lengthy features cover the careers of Frederic Remington and Charles Shreyvogel, both influential and astonishing painters whose careers ran parallel, making them rivals for the title of best Western artist. That only one of these two contemporaries, both born in 1861, is remembered nowadays should not be taken as a sign that the other lacked talent but that Remington was a canny businessman who promoted his artwork as skillfully as he painted it.

They were both incredibly talented, but Remington was the more prolific as an illustrator. He is credited as the artist who made horses look natural as they galloped. Prior to Remington, a running horse had all four legs outstretched as if to tell the onlooker that the time was about twenty-five past seven (or maybe twenty-five to five). Remington looked at photographs to see how a horses legs and hooves were positioned as it ran and only slightly exaggerated them to realise the effect he was looking for in his paintings.

Remington was a rather poor student and preferred drawing to maths. As his father was in the military, that became his favourite subject to draw. After studying at Yale, he drifted into journalism, but his artistic side was inspired again when he visited Montana at the age of 19. He moved briefly to Kansas, but followed his wife back east; there he studied at the Art Students League of New York and began selling to Collier's and Harper's Weekly and the latter commissioned him to cover the war against Geronimo in Arizona.

For years he kept up a steady output of paintings, but was also a noted sculptor and even wrote a couple of novels. For many years he struggled with his weight (he weighed over 300 pounds) and poor health leading to his death aged 48.


Charles Schreyvogel grew up in New Jersey, the son of immigrant shopkeepers, and was encouraged by Henry August Schwabe, a painter and teacher who wanted Schreyvogel to join the Newark Art League. The would-be artist hadn't the money, so taught himself to draw while working as an apprentice lithographer, giving art lessons to earn extra money.

With the backing of his two brothers, Schreyvogel was able to sail to Germany and study at Munich Art Academy, returning to Hoboken four years later. He was virtually penniless and suffering from chronic asthma when he had an opportunity to visit Colorado. Inspired, and using an incredible collection of memorabilia he had gathered on his trip, he began producing meticulous paintings of the West, but they failed to sell. Schreyvogel refused to do commercial work and it was an impoverished pair—Schreyvogel had eloped with his girlfriend in 1894—who entered a painting in the National Academy of Design annual exhibition in 1899. 'My Bunkie' proved a hit and won Schreyvogel a medal and, more importantly, $300.

Family bereavement meant that penniless Schreyvogel was unaware of the win and that the New York Herald was searching desperately for the unknown artist, whose painting went on to also win the Paris Exposition Award and the Pan American Exposition Medal. They eventually found him and life began to improve for the Schreyvogels, despite the efforts of Frederic Remington, who took Schreyvogel to task over the historical accuracy of one of a painting, 'Custer's Demand'. Unfortunately for Remington, Schreyvogel had researched his picture with the aide of Custer's widow and cavalrymen who had ridden with him on the day he depicted and they confirmed its accuracy.

The painting was the breakthrough that meant Schreyvogel was considered as the premier living painter of the Wild West, especially after Reminton's death. That recognition lasted only a few years, as he died in 1912, shortly after his 51st birthday.

The issue wraps up with a piece on The Lone Ranger and its various comic incarnations. Created by Fran Striker as a radio show, the character went through dozens of interpretations on TV, in books and in strip form.

As always, the magazine is thoroughly and beautifully illustrated and, over the years, it has grown into an encyclopedia of some of the best art around. Long may it reign.

For more information on Illustrators and back issues, visit the Book Palace website, where you can also find details of their online editions, and news of upcoming issues. Issue 28 will have features on Frank Kelly Freas, Yvonne Gilbert and Laurent Durieux.

1 comment:

  1. A really good Remington sold at Heritage auctions not long ago for over $300K if my memory serves me right Steve!

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