Frederic S. Remington (1861–1909)
Roman Bronze Works
Coming Through the Rye, 1902
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, Amon G. Carter Collection
In March 1902 the artist wrote Riccardo Bertelli of the Roman Bronze Works that he was hard at work on a clay model of four carousing cowboys, a subject he had illustrated for The Century Magazine fourteen years earlier. In his studio in New Rochelle, New York, Remington worked on the model incessantly, trying to overcome some of the challenging compositional problems. He arranged the figures in parallel fashion, trying to lift as many horses’ legs into the air as possible. He took a photograph of the model, then used white paint on the photograph itself to eliminate the wooden armatures supporting the soft clay, in order to visualize the daring visual effect of only five out of sixteen of the horses’ hooves touching the base. He then went back to the clay model and made other changes, such as extending the arm of the right-hand rider outward instead of upward, and lifting all four legs of his horse into the air. (The horse and rider were attached to the side of the horse and rider next to it.) At the Roman Bronze Works foundry, Remington and Bertelli struggled with the wax model of what would be called Coming Through the Rye for nearly seven weeks, modifying the artist’s design to solve nearly insurmountable casting problems. By the time the first cast was made, five months had elapsed, and the artist was unsure of the public response the work would receive. “If they like it I’ll swell up—if they don’t I’ll tighten my belt,” he wrote. In 1904 it was enlarged to heroic size in plaster bearing the title Off the Trail, and displayed at the eastern entrance to the Pike, the amusement area within the Louisiana Purchase Exposition grounds in St. Louis. Despite this singular honor, sales of the bronze group were disappointing, in part due to the size of the sculpture and its very steep price—$2,000. Only about eight casts of Coming Through the Rye were produced in Remington’s lifetime; the Amon Carter Museum example illustrated here is cast #12, produced under the authority of the artist’s widow, Eva Remington.