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Broncho Buster

Broncho Buster
inscribed 'Frederic Remington.' and 'CAST BY THE HENRY-BONNARD BRONZE Co N-Y. 1895.' (on the base)—inscribed 'Copyrighted by/Frederic Remington 1895.' (along the base)—numbered '46.' (underneath the base)
bronze with brown patina
24 in. (60.9 cm.) high
Modeled in 1895; cast by 1900.
The artist.
William Wadsworth Findlay, acquired from the above.
Findlay Galleries, Chicago, Illinois.
Private collection, Kansas City, Missouri, acquired from the above, circa late 1950s.
By descent to the present owner.
H. McCracken, Frederic Remington: Artist of the Old West, New York, 1947, n.p., pl. 41, another example illustrated.
H. McCracken, The Frederic Remington Book: A Pictoral History of the West, Garden City, New York, 1966, pp. 255-56, another example illustrated.
The American Connoisseur, June 1967, p. 142, another example illustrated.
The Connoisseur, August 1967, cover, another example illustrated.
P. Hassrick, Frederic Remington: Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture in the Amon Carter Museum and the Sid W. Richardson Foundation Collections, New York, 1973, pp. 180-81, another example illustrated.
B. Wear, The 2nd Bronze World of Frederic Remington, Upper Montclair, New Jersey, 1976, pp. 56-57, another example illustrated.
M.E. Shapiro, Cast and Recast: The Sculpture of Frederic Remington, Washington, D.C., 1981, pp. 63-69, another example illustrated.
M.E. Shapiro, P. Hassrick, Frederic Remington: The Masterworks, New York, 1988, pp. 172, 186, pls. 47-48, another example illustrated.
J. Ballinger, Frederic Remington, New York, 1989, p. 74, another example illustrated.
M.D. Greenbaum, Icons of the West: Frederic Remington's Sculpture, Ogdensburg, New York, 1996, pp. 51-64, 172, another example illustrated.
B. Dippie, The Frederic Remington Art Museum Collection, Ogdensburg, New York, 2001, pp. 18, 112-17, another example illustrated.
P. Hassrick, Frederic Remington: A Catalogue Raisonné II, Norman, Oklahoma, 2016, pp. 57-59, 121, 123, 125, 160-61, 171, another example illustrated.
Kansas City, Missouri, William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art and the Mary Atkins Museum of Fine Arts, The Last Frontier: An Exhibition of the Art of the Old West, October 5-November 2, 1957, no. 76.

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Tylee Abbott
Tylee Abbott Vice President, Head of American Art

Lot Essay

Nowhere in Frederic Remington's oeuvre is the cowboy more celebrated than in his first bronze subject, The Broncho Buster. Originally conceived in 1895, The Broncho Buster, depicting a cowboy breaking in a wild horse, was an immediate success, symbolizing all that was triumphant and heroic of the West. The artist observed, “my oils will all get old and watercolors will fade—but I am to endure in bronze...I am doing a cowboy on a bucking bronco and I am going to rattle down through the ages.” (as quoted in P. Hassrick, Frederic Remington: The Masterworks, New York, 1988, p. 182)

Heralded as “the most successful single statuette produced in America during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries,” The Broncho Buster was the first action bronze of its kind and has become not only emblematic of Remington’s career as a sculptor of the American frontier but also a quintessentially western image with everlasting appeal. (M.D. Greenbaum, Icons of the West: Frederic Remington’s Sculpture, Ogdensburg, New York, 1996, p. 51)

The Broncho Buster was originally cast by Henry-Bonnard Bronze Co. in 1895. The foundry produced a total of 64 sand castings of the bronze between 1895 and 1900, making the present work a lifetime cast. Michael Greenbaum writes, “The foundry’s consistently superior quality meant each casting was as poignant and dramatic as the model Remington originally fashioned.” (Icons of the West: Frederic Remington’s Sculpture, Ogdensburg, New York, 1996, p. 51) The sculpture’s incredible success endured after the artist began casting with Roman Bronze Works in 1901, who produced approximately 90 lifetime casts and a total number of approximately 340 authorized posthumous casts.

The subject of the cowboy was always a central and important theme in Remington’s oeuvre, appearing as early as about 1882 in a sketch made during his first trip West (Cow-Boys of Arizona—Roused by a Scout, unlocated). At a time of rapidly growing intrigue around the region and, subsequently, demand for western imagery, his sketches caught the attention of J. Henry Harper of Harper’s Weekly, who referred to Remington himself as “a cowboy just off a ranch.” Although Remington’s early sketches were crude, for Harper they “had all the ring of new and live material.” (House of Harper, New York, 1912, p. 603) The artist landed his first cover with The Apache War: Indian Scouts on Geronimo’s Trail published for the January 9, 1886 issue of Harper’s Weekly. Remington’s work for Harpers propelled his status overnight as the foremost illustrator of the American West.

Having mastered the concept of spatial awareness in his paintings and drawings, Remington’s endeavor into sculpture was likely an inevitable transition. In 1894, Remington was completing a Harper’s Monthly illustration for Owen Wister’s story “The Second Missouri Compromise.” Titled “Don’t Nobody Hurt Anybody,” Remington’s scene depicts a group of eight men sitting and standing around a table in a complex interior scene with the focus on a cowboy drawing his gun at the central group. “Remington, sketching without models, realized that this arrangement obscured the details of the background and dwarfed the secondary figures. He quickly rubbed out his first attempt, moved the cowboy backward and the lesser figures forward. Remington intuitively visualized his figures from all sides, not just as flat images, as would be expected of an illustrator. [Augustus] Thomas said, 'Fred, you're not a draftsman; you're a sculptor. You saw all around that fellow, and could have put him anywhere you wanted him. They call that the sculptor's degree of vision.’” (as quoted in P.J. Broder, Bronzes of the American West, New York, 1974, p. 131) The final illustration proved to be the catalyst for Remington’s introduction and experimentation with bronze and resulted in the artist's first sculptural endeavor and ultimately his most popular model, The Broncho Buster. After the sculpture’s debut a year later, Wister wrote to the artist, “The name is as splendid as the rest. I am going to own The Broncho Buster.” (October 1895, letter from Owen Wister to Remington, Frederic Remington Art Museum)

Derived from Remington's cachet of works devoted to the rearing horse and rider, The Broncho Buster was not only a technical triumph but also reflected the artist's incredible attention to detail combined with the ingenious rendering of a specific action, intense movement and sublime balance. Moreover, as the first of his action bronzes, it furthered the trajectory of Remington’s reputation as America’s frontier artist and master of the region’s mystifying drama, danger and excitement. The New York Times raved, “In point of fact, however, it is an initial effort, and certainly shows genuine taste and talent in that direction. Mr. Remington has long been known as a popular illustrator, whose work in the publications of the day as put him well in the front rank of the men who draw in pen and ink, and in this peculiar field he has been almost without a rival. Now that he has started in another direction, and begun so promisingly, his career will be marked with still greater interest and subsequent work of this kind will be watched for eagerly.” (October 17, 1895, p. 4)

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