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Remington’s celeb status

Feb 15, 2021


Maggie Adler, Curator of Paintings, Sculpture, and Works on Paper

Part of  these categories:: Exhibitions, Collection

Frederic Remington made a reputation for himself as an illustrator and a painter. Not one to rest easy with his original success at illustrating and painting, Remington decided to try his hand at bronze sculpture—not exactly the simplest thing to teach yourself. With the help of the leading bronze foundries in the United States, most notably Roman Bronze Works, whose master craftsmen would be Remington’s collaborators for life, Remington created sculptures that have perhaps been even more celebrated than his paintings.

How did this happen? A lot might have to do with frequent cameo appearances. The Remington sculpture with the most celebrity status is Remington’s The Broncho Buster because a cast of it has been a constant Oval Office fixture through party shifts and for presidents of differing personalities and objectives.

Why does this work appeal to U.S. presidents both real and on TV? Good question. The cowboy mystique for some still stands as a symbol of self-sufficient, independent heroism—a kind of rugged individualism that can be considered an aspect of democracy. To others, it’s just a statement of manly hype. Interestingly, President Biden has opted for a more personal touch in his Oval Office. He is surrounded by family photographs and chose many portrait busts from the National Portrait Gallery to flank his desk including Rosa Parks and Cesar Chavez. One might assume he chose to show a more personal side rather than an “American type” as a statement of his idea that democracy is made up of not just one individualist but many individuals.

Embed from Getty Images

Presidents George H.W. Bush, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter in the Oval Office with Broncho Buster in the background.
Screenshot of the "West Wing" with actor Martin Sheen and a small version of "The Broncho Buster" in the background.

Screen capture by the author of the pilot episode of The West Wing—fictional President Bartlett in front of a copy of Gilbert Stuart’s George Washington and a miniature Broncho Buster.

The choice of Oval Office art is up to the president and their staff. Note that the fictional White House in the TV series The West Wing has an impossibly miniature version in the pilot that is later swapped out for a miniature Lincoln Memorial!

Fun fact: Official versions of this sculpture were sold in Remington’s time everywhere, from art galleries to department stores. That said, originals are very rare, so before you contact the Carter to find out if the one you bought in a convenience store is real, you might want to visit our FAQs!

Visitors can see The Broncho Buster at the Carter in the exhibition Mythmakers: The Art of Winslow Homer and Frederic Remington on view through February 28, 2021.