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The unexpected guest

May 21, 2021


Jon Frembling, Gentling Curator and Head Museum Archivist

Part of  these categories:: Library/Archives

The archives at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art are a treasure trove of unique artist-made materials that you cannot find anywhere else and make it possible for the Carter to tell a fuller story of the art that is on the walls. Researching in our archival collections has given me greater insight into the workings of the art world, too. A key example is our Roman Bronze Works (RBW) archive. RBW was the premier art foundry in the United States during the 20th century, creating much of the art sculpture made in this country. Founded in New York City by Italian craftsmen in 1899 and in operation through the early years of the 21st century, RBW was the go-to foundry for artists wanting to create the finest castings. Our archive, then, is an amazing resource in telling the story of the sculptures in the collection and has been consequently a destination for researchers of all types.

As the guy who runs the reference desk in the Library, I’ve experienced times when special collections like RBW have resulted in interesting and unexpected encounters with patrons and researchers. I remember a day, early in my career at the museum, when a visitor came in the door inquiring about Frederic Remington bronzes and asked if Rick Stewart, our director at the time and one of the foremost experts on Charles M. Russell and Frederic Remington, was available to speak with him. Rick was, and he came down to the Library and we chatted for a little while about the Remington bronze sculpture The Broncho Buster.

Roman Bronze Works ledger showing handwritten list of Frederic Remington works.

Charles Wagenfohr and Frederic Remington, Ledger #2, Page 112, Roman Bronze Works Archive, Amon Carter Museum of American Art.

The patron revealed that he owned a Remington sculpture and asked if he could bring it in. Rick could sense a good story, so the collector lucked out in this instance. We require collectors to secure advance permission to bring artworks into the museum. It’s definitely not a good idea to bring art to a museum unannounced (see our FAQ)! The patron came back in with a soft, cloth gym bag, lumpy and irregular in shape, clearly something crammed into it. He chuckled as he explained that he had flown in from New York and had stowed this bag in the overhead compartment on the airplane. He had made the trip to Fort Worth because he knew we had the Roman Bronze records. He proceeded to open the bag and pull out a beautiful large Broncho Buster, and although I was inexperienced with this sort of thing, even I could tell with my untrained eye that the detail on the sculpture was magnificent—crisp, clearly not a reproduction or a recast made from an original. The cast’s patina was beautiful, not the usual chocolatey brown that many of the museum’s Remington sculptures are. Rick was impressed; he gathered several books and resources for the patron, and carefully looked the cast over. He demonstrated where foundry and edition marks could be found on the base, and he provided resources to compare them to known works. The evidence suggested this was likely a lifetime cast of The Broncho Buster done by Roman Bronze. I then pulled the ledger books for the early years of Roman Bronze, looking up Remington, and sure enough there was a matching cast number in Ledger #2.

All in all, it was an unexpected and interesting day! Although the Carter does not provide appraisals or authentications of artwork, information in its archives can serve as the building blocks for an informed understanding of objects. It was interesting to keep tabs on how the sculpture fared after the patron carried it out with him. Now that he had a better idea as to what he had, he decided to place it on the market, and it did well.

The Carter has the Roman Bronze Works, as well as the papers of 12 other artists, and a significant number of research collections such as Rick Stewart's Russell and Remington research collection in our archives. These are open to the public to explore. Perhaps you, too, might discover an interesting story of your own. Come visit us!

Explore more from Roman Bronze Works

Browse the list of works below to see more objects in the Carter collection that were cast at Roman Bronze Works.