Winchesters and Watercolors

Mary Connealy
Mary Connealy

My current work in progress, which won’t be released for a while—so forget all about it—is going to be about a western artist. A dreamer, not practical at all, who falls in love with a western woman. Boiled all the way down

They see an elk. He reaches for his sketch pad. She reaches for her rifle.

Oh, they are having so much fun disrespecting each other while fighting their attraction. It’s great.

To write the book, I’m researching western artists like Frederick Remington, Charlie Russell and Thomas Moran. So, since that’s about all I know this week, I’m going to write about them.
First the king, to me anyway, Frederick Remington:
Frederic Remington popularized the myths, legends, and images we now call the –Old West. Frederic Remington is the artist most closely identified with subjects of the American West during the last half of the 19th century. His drawings and paintings are wonderful but to me, it’s his sculptures that are truly amazing.
The interesting thing about Remington is he had this personaas a western man…almost like he hired a hot shot image consultant…. but he wasn’t one. He traveled to the west, looked around, then came back to his home on the east coast and painted.

Part of the romance of Remington is this love he had for the west. In a 1905 article in Collier’s Magazine he later recalled his early inspiration for depicting Western subjects, stating: “I knew the wild riders and the vacant land were about to vanish forever….And the more I considered the subject, the bigger the forever loomed. Without knowing exactly how to do it, I began to try to record some facts around me, and the more I looked the more the panorama unfolded … I saw the living, breathing end of three American centuries of smoke and dust and sweat.”

He sold his first work in 1881 but in 1895 Remington began sculpting in bronze, and this is the work of his I love.

Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Remington portrayed a most characteristic and yet vanishing type of American life. The soldier, the cowboy, the rancher, the Indian, the horses and cattle of the plains will live in his pictures and bronzes, I verily believe for all time.”

Charlie Russell is the real deal. While Remington traveled west and went home to the east, Charlie Russell was a cowboy who drew pictures. A lot of his early work that’s been found is sketches added to letters he wrote. While Remington attended Yale, Russell was borderline illiterate. Reading the letters he wrote is painful almost for the misspellings and dreadful grammar. But that man would draw.

To me the most charming part of his story was, he got married and while he’d been mostly giving his sketches away or sometimes selling one for a few dollars, his wife was a business woman at heart. She loved his art and she sort of shoo-ed him out to the back room to paint and took over the selling. She made him a fortune. He is quoted as saying, “She’s selling my pictures for ‘dead man’ prices.”
He signed his pictures with stylized initials and a buffalo skull.

And Thomas Moran. He is from the Hudson School of Painting. Which was a style of painting that sort of faded after Remington and Russell came to fame with their very realistic style. Moran’s paintings are very beautiful and he was in love with the Yellowstone area and the Rocky Mountains. He uses very romanticized sunlight and vivid color.

Some say his paintings of the Rocky Mountains were a factor in the creation of Yellowstone Park.We take our cattle to an auction barn every year and sell them and in the office they’ve got a sculpture, really cool, that I figured to be Frederick Remington, but I can’t find it among his work. But it’s a great sculpture of a cowboy roping a calf. thescreamHave you seen any of these paintings or sculptures around? Once you start looking they are everywhere.

They tug at something inside me, the liveliness of them. Imagine the skill to make a three dimensional sculpture? That painting of the geyser by Moran, it’s almost in motion the water spewing, the storm clouds brewing (HEY! That’s a poem!)
How are you on the fine arts? Do you like the western stuff or are you more a modern art lover. Can anyone in this group paint or sculpt. And no, this isn’t my new obsession. After my last post about Cupid, it might seem that way, but I swear I’m going back to the history of the gun, or the Civil War or maybe how they built the railroad. I promise. Unless I decide to write about how Remington did his scuptures. Very interesting.
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Author of Romantic Comedy...with Cowboys including the bestselling Kincaid Brides Series

43 thoughts on “Winchesters and Watercolors”

  1. How lovely! Thanks for the great post, Mary! I didn’t know any of that, and I do enjoy that art (loved the story of him and his wife, too!) Not much of an artist myself, but I tend to prefer the more classic stuff; some of the modern stuff leaves me confused and/or cold ;p

  2. The more I research it, the more western artists I find. There’s one named Steven Miller who is working right now who is doing bronzes that look like Remington’s. And some paintings of Remingtons and Russells were turned into sculptures after their deaths, by othersl.

  3. Mary, you need to come to Tulsa and visit the Thomas Gilcrease Museum. They have lots of Remingtons and Russells, and even some Moran, I think. I can’t remember who painted them, but they have a collection of western miniature paintings. I love those.

  4. Vickie I spent a fantastic day at the National Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma City over Christmas.

    I’ll definitely keep this other museum in mind. I spend forever in the Western Artist division of the other museum. Loved it.

  5. Hi Mary – I love the Remington sculptures. I actually have one! No, not an original, but I bid on it at an auction and it’s a replica of the Bronco Buster. It’s an amazing depiction of the old west, very detailed that came from an art gallery, but the nameplate does say Frederic Remington. I sort of went a little crazy when I saw it and my husband rolled his eyes, like he knew it was gonna cost him money. Luckily for me,(and him) no one else bid on it, so I could afford it. It sits on my fireplace mantle.

    Thomas Moran’s pictures are so beautiful and romantic. Those are my type of scenes. That last picture you posted, almost looks like a Picasso or Van Gogh… who painted that one?

  6. I love all three of these artists, Mary. Your blog comparing the three is superb.
    That said, what covers my walls at home, besides my daughter’s early work, is my collection of Australian Aboriginal paintings. They’re mostly dots in beautiful patterns, very abstract in their look, and they radiate the creative energy of the women who painted them.
    (Have yet to visit Australia–fell in love with these paintings and bought them on line.)

  7. Mary, when I lived in No. Platte, we had a local cowboy artist. Danged if I can remember his name, but his sculptures sold for big, big bucks at auctions, especially during NebraskaLAND Days.

    I’d love to have one sitting in my office.

  8. Mary, this was a very interesting post. I am not into modern art myself. I think I like the western art better. The art that you posted was beautiful. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Oh right, I do remember learning about that one! I feel like that when I my writing isn’t going well!

    My daughter’s art class in grammar school all did a Jackson Pollack painting once. I can honestly say, I think I can do a Jack the Dripper or is it
    Jack the Flicker?

  10. I know that to each his own…or whatever…when it comes to modern art. BUT, having said that, I think you have to PROVE to me you can paint a barn and an apple before you get to go all Jack the Dripper on me.

    I mean anyone can splatter.
    The drop cloth under my grandchild’s highchair, in the day when she’s old enough for one, might be passed off as a Jackson Pollock.

    Did you know Picasso was a really talented painter, in things other than abstract? I guess, if you CAN paint a portrait, then CHOOSE to give someone two eyes on one side of her head, then FINE! But you’d darn well better be able to crank out that still life first, otherwise you’re just cheating.

    Here’s radical…I think poems should rhyme, too. There! I’ve said it. Let the chips fall!!!!!!
    I mean that’s what makes it tricky, for pete’s sake!

    I know. I’m a cavewoman.

  11. If you are ever near Boulder, Co., check out the Leaning Tree Museum of western art. It has some great art and western sculptures. One artist that really caught my eye was Hughes. Some of his paintings take up an entire wall.

    Terry Redlin is my favorite artist. His Americana paintings are wonderful. I have been to his art gallary in Watertown, SD a couple of times. He has had to retire because of Alzheimer’s so we have lost a great talent.

  12. I love western art. My brother does patina work for some of the current western artists. Austin Barton, Dave Manuel, J. Shirly Bothum. He also sculpts his own wildlife sculptures. He worked on a half-size sculpture of an Indian that I’m saving up to purchase. I’ve never been as captivated by a piece of sculpture as I am with that piece.

  13. My husband has several bronze Remingtons. It is amazing to see the detail in them. I like them because I am a big fan of stories from the old American West. Of course, I would like these sculptures better if they weren’t also a pain to dust! 😉

  14. Your HUSBAND has them? Has he run off with them? Won’t he share????

    I’m talking myself into wanting one of these. But I am such a flop as a housekeeper, all those little, lovely details would be clogged with dust.

  15. Interesting post! Loved seeing the sculptures and paintings of the West. I’m familiar with Remington’s work but haven’t seen any of Russell’s or Moran’s. Guess I’m not a great art lover as some are but I’m partial to sculptures. Like the horses and cowboys that seem to come alive. We have this jeweler in town who sculpts horses and cowboys as a hobby. He’s pretty darn good. Wish I could afford his prices.

    Your WIP sounds great. Lots of conflict. I know it’ll be another good read.

  16. ‘They see an elk. He reaches for his sketch pad. She reaches for her rifle.’ Mary – that’s wonderful! I instantly smiled. I can just picture it. Ooh – it’s going on my want list!

    I’m familiar with R & R but not Moran. Yes, I notice western art wherever I go. I even gave a replica statue as a bridal shower gift to a western couple. I had no idea what they wanted or needed and I remembered my own practical wedding gifts. Who goes out to by art when you’re trying to set up a ranch these days? I’ll always remember their smiles as they turned the statue around exploring all the detailed work.

    The art at our house consists:
    – paintings from people I know (like my mil and a friend)
    – drawings from Western Pencil artist Bernie Brown
    – an old Currier and Ives print of trout fishing
    – a 12″ ceramic statue of a ‘mountain man’
    – an 8″ Inuit soapstone carving of an mother pushing aside her parka for her baby to nurse but with all the sealskin and fur, it’s very modest.

    Painting, drawing, sculpting and singing are things I feel I can accomplish in my head, but my voice and hands don’t agree.

  17. Love these western life depictions! Always have!
    Maybe that’s why my early reading centered around
    Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey! Thanks for bringing
    this wonderful subject to us today!

    Pat Cochran

  18. Great post, Mary! Remington definitely is a master of his craft. I actually studied Art and oil-paint from time to time, but our DIL is the true artist in the fam. Both of us have works displayed in my house LOL. I love your Munch scream there =)

    I think my favorite is Van Gogh…did a personal blog on him just the other day. (I am, however, not a Pollack fan.)

    Thanks for wonderful information and humor today.

  19. I love artwork! I don’t have many originals, but reproductions. I’ve seen Remington’s sculptures around but never knew the man behind them. So thanks for that information! I do have one piece of original Eskimo art–a sleek sculpture of a seal. I didn’t realize that Eskimo sculptures were meant to be touched…I find that so unusual and beautiful. I used to sketch and paint quite a bit several years ago–charcoal and colored markers–the kind for interior design–but my creativity diverted into writing instead. Funny how that worked!

    Loved your blog today!

  20. Love a beautiful work of art. I can’t draw a straight line.

    My brother however is a wonderful artist. He can draw anything he sets his mind to.

    Love your blogs

  21. Very interesting post. I love old art and sculptures. The modern stuff doesn’t do much for me. No, I’m not an artist per say. But I do love art work.

  22. Some people are just born with it, aren’t they? I’ve got a brother-in-law like that. He can just draw…never trained in it or studied it and doesn’t very often do it, but he can.

    There was a kid in church, the age of one of my daughters, who could draw anything. He was always sketching dragons in flight. I used to want to sit next to his family in church so I could watch him draw.

    I know, pay attention to the sermon. I said I WANTED to. I didn’t say I DID.


  23. I wish I spent more time around art. The nearest really nice museum to me, the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha had a Chihuli exhibit. He does beautiful things with glass.
    I remember, shortly after seeing that exhibit, it was a fluke we were taking the school kids to the museum, I never go on my own…watching the TV show Frasier and Frasier made a Chihuli joke. You don’t see many of them.

  24. Interesting blog! The WIP sounds good too. I would say I like pastoral art much better than modern. I have some artists (Mother, sister, nieces) in the family but not me. I am a word person – attorney, so pretty dull stuff – I think that’s why I love to read fun and entertaining books!

  25. I love it – Sounds like an incredible romance 🙂 I love art as long as I can tell what the painting is LOL! But I can’t paint or draw worth a lick. I did, however, paint a concrete Jesus & Mary which now sit on my porch.

    Nor can I sew, crochet, knit or cross stitch – writing is the only creative outlet/ability I have.

    My son, however is a marvelous artist and dancer – in fact he designs the costumes for many of the teams he choreographs routines for

    Very interesting post.

  26. Pamela we should form a club.
    We would DARE anyone to explain any object we couldn’t recognize….We’d call ourselves…
    What Is That?


    That is Super Ugly


    Get A Clue or Get a Job
    GAC-GAJ (sounds like someone gagging).

    Okay, yes, I’m a philistine. It’s already been settled.

  27. Hi Mary, we just got back from looking at wedding invitations…got it down to four possibilities LOL. Oh, I visited Joslyn many times during my college years.

    We also decorate mostly with family photos which include about four hundred thousand pix of our grandson, age two.

  28. The Joslyn Art Museum is really a good one. I’m always impressed when I walk through it.
    “Wow, that’s a REAL Rembrandt?”
    Wow that’s a REAL (fill in the blank-they’ve got some good stuff in there)

    Also, some absurd but that’s the way of art, right? I remember one piece of ‘art’ that was a round white circle, basketball-sized, haing from a wire, with a movie projection of an eyeball on it, the eye ball was moving, blinking, wide, narrow, just a regular eye.

    I missed the great artistic intent but well, I’m sure it was just me.

    And my grandbaby daughter is perfect. My daughter phoned me at work today to let Elle talk to me. She was coo-ing and she’s smiling a lot now. Six weeks old last Tuesday. And she changes so much everytime I see her that I hate missing a single week!!!!!!!!!!

  29. Oh Mary ~ I agree on the group of art lovers with selective tastes – ALST (sound a bit painful – huh?) LOL!

    New granddaughter huh? Sorry I missed that info – congratulations!

    Aren’t grand children FUN!?

    My daughter is expecting again in June – her 2nd child – my 3rd grandchild – this one is a boy – of course his big sister (who will be 5 in March) ‘knew’ it was a boy from the beginning 🙂


  30. Great post about the artists. Research is such an interesting pastime. I really like the styles of Remington and Russell. Some wonderful art has come out of the west. An acquaintance has a lovely bronze of a native american maiden in a canoe (about 4 feet long). It is beautiful – would love to have it!

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