Frederic S. Remington (1861–1909)
An Indian Trapper, 1889
Oil on canvas
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, Amon G. Carter Collection
In April 1887 Remington persuaded his editors at Harper’s Weekly to send him on a sketching trip to the Canadian West. He went overland by rail through North Dakota and into Wyoming, then headed north toward Calgary, Alberta, and the Blackfoot reservation south of the Bow River. After a short visit he had accumulated enough material for a series of full-page drawings that appeared in the magazine over the next six months. At the same time, he stored away information on Blackfoot dress, weapons, implements, and modes of decoration to serve him in the studio when it came time to work on easel paintings. One of the paintings that derived directly from the artist’s Canadian trip was An Indian Trapper, exhibited in 1889 at the Brooklyn Arts Club, where it quickly found a buyer. The painting also served as an illustration for an article by Colonel Theodore A. Dodge, titled “Some American Riders,” which appeared in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine in May 1891. Dodge noted that the figure in the painting could be a Cree or a Blackfoot, “whom one was apt to run across in the Selkirk Mountains or elsewhere, on the plains of the British Territories, or well up north in the Rockies.” The trapper wears a Huson’s Bay Company blanket coat, and fringed leggings and moccasins decorated with beadwork. His hat, of a typical Blackfoot type, is made of animal fur, and suitable for the cold climate. A rolled-up buffalo coat or robe can be seen behind his saddle, and a two-bladed “beaver tail” knife in a colorful scabbard is visible against the red sash around his waist. The trapper grips a tack-studded quirt in his left hand, while cradling a rifle that shows the same type of decoration. The horse is the typically lithe, hammer-headed variety that Remington frequently depicted in his works; here, its sleek black coat shimmers in the stark light of the alpine landscape.