Frederic Remington (1861-1909)
Frederic Remington (1861-1909)

"Sideways Fell Into the River, Plunged Beneath the Sluggish Water"

Frederic Remington (1861-1909)
"Sideways Fell Into the River, Plunged Beneath the Sluggish Water"
signed 'Frederic Remington.' (lower left)
oil en grisaille on canvas
19 ¾ x 27 7/8 in. (50.2 x 70.8 cm.)
Painted in 1889.
Kennedy Galleries, Inc., New York.
Alexander Gallery, New York.
Acquired by the present owner from above.
H.W. Longfellow, F. Remington, The Song of Hiawatha, Boston, Massachusetts, 1891, p. 189, illustrated.
P.H. Hassrick, M.J. Webster, Frederic Remington: A Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings, Watercolors and Drawings, vol. I, Cody, Wyoming, 1996, p. 280, no. 844, illustrated.

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Elizabeth Beaman
Elizabeth Beaman

Lot Essay

In 1888, Frederic Remington was commissioned to illustrate an edition of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's epic poem The Song of Hiawatha, first published in 1855. Longfellow’s story furthered the American public’s overwhelming fascination with Native Americans that had been ignited by James Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans of 1826 and other mythological stories and images of Native Americans that permeated popular culture of the time.

The present work relates to the verse in The Song of Hiawatha that tells the story of Kwasind, a great warrior known far and wide among the nations, and a band of envious “little people” who plot against him. Here Remington has rendered the moment after Kwasind is murdered, when the landscape is reeled into darkness and the great warrior sinks into the river:

Sideways fell into the river,
Plunged beneath the sluggish water
Headlong, as an otter plunges;
And the birch canoe, abandoned,
Drifted empty down the river,
Bottom upward swerved and drifted:
Nothing more was seen of Kwasind.
But the memory of the Strong Man
Lingered long among the people,
And whenever through the forest
Raged and roared the wintry tempest,
And the branches, tossed and troubled,
Creaked and groaned and split asunder,
"Kwasind!" cried they; "that is Kwasind!
He is gathering in his fire-wood!"

Ultimately, Remington completed some four hundred line drawings and twenty-two en grisaille paintings for the Houghton Mifflin & Co. 1890 edition of the story, including Sideways Fell Into the River, Plunged Beneath the Sluggish Water. Harold McCracken wrote of the project, "The drawings for Hiawatha established Remington’s reputation beyond venture of a doubt…Because of these pictures alone, Remington’s name, when he was barely thirty years old and with such a comparatively short experience behind him, was already on the way to becoming a household word." (Frederic Remington, 1947, p. 61)

Other examples of Remington’s en grisaille works for Hiawatha can be found in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the Sid Richardson Collection, Fort Worth, Texas.?

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