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Ridden Down

Frederic Remington

Ridden Down

Frederic Remington
  • Date: 1905 - 1906
  • Style: Impressionism
  • Genre: genre painting
  • Media: oil
  • Order Oil Painting

In late 1905, Cosmopolitan magazine began publishing serial installments of one of Remington’s most successful novels, The Way of an Indian. The novel chronicles the life story of a Cheyenne man as emblematic of the life and death of his people. Born on the open plains, the man develops into Fire Eater, a fearsome warrior and chief. However, despite his bravery and skill, he becomes increasingly powerless as his tribe falls before the steady encroachments of the white man. By the time Fire Eater has reached old age, he and his tribe are decisively defeated in a final battle with the U.S. Cavalry. Although Fire Eater manages to escape with a few survivors into the mountains, he leaves the body of his son and the defiant spirit of his people behind. The novel ends with the despairing old chief calling to the spirits to take him away, so he can enter the shadow-land and return to the glory days of his youth. The themes in Remington’s novel have their visual counterpart in Ridden Down, completed the same year as the novel. Here a lone warrior, stripped for battle and covered with green “medicine” paint for protection, stands on the edge of a bluff next to his gasping, sweat-lathered horse, which has been ridden to exhaustion. A badlands landscape stretches all around them like an ocean of shimmering yellows, as a band of Indians gallops toward them from the desert flats far below. Like Fire Eater in Remington’s novel, this warrior stoically calls to the spirits while awaiting his inevitable fate. The story told by this painting is simple, yet very powerful. “Big art is the process of elimination,” Remington was quoted as saying a few years earlier. “Cut down and out—do your hardest work outside the picture, and let your audience take away something to think about—to imagine.”

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