Frederic Remington created iconic images of the Western frontier composed of Native Americans, cavalrymen and cowboys. Nowhere in his 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.
In 1894, Remington was completing an illustration for a story by Owen Wister to be illustrated in Harper's Monthly, entitled "The Second Missouri Compromise." The scene depicts a group of eight men sitting and standing around a table in a complex interior scene with the focus being 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, "'Don't Hurt Anybody,' Said Specimen Jones" proved to be the catalyst for Remington's introduction and experimentation with bronze and would result in the artist's first sculptural endeavor and ultimately the artist's most popular model, The Broncho Buster.
"The Broncho Buster was a great success. Within three weeks of the copyright, Arthur Hoeber wrote in Harper's Weekly: 'He has handled his clay in a masterly way, with great freedom and certainty of touch, and in a manner to call forth the surprise and admiration not only of his fellow craftsmen, but of sculptors as well. Mr. Remington has struck his gait, and that, much as he has accomplished in an illustrative way, more remains for him to do, and other roads are open to him. With youth, health and energy, who shall say how far he may not go? And his is a distinctly American field.'" (As quoted in Bronzes of the American West, p. 133)
The present cast was originally sold through Tiffany & Co. in New York and is one of only sixty-four casts produced by the Henry-Bonnard Co. before the artist switched to Roman Bronze Works. Once Remington switched foundries he also switched from sand casting to the method of lost wax, allowing him to vary the details in each cast, which subsequently altered the overall appearance of the model in later examples.
Remington recognized that his legacy as a brilliant artist would be defined by the longevity of his bronze sculptures and in 1895, wrote: "My oils will all get old and watery...my watercolors will fade--but I am to endure in bronze...I am modeling--I find I do well--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)