Frederic Remington’s A Dash for the Timber, painted in 1889 when the artist was only 28, can be seen as the product of a number of formative travels Remington took across the 'wild' American west.
Combining his hero-worship and subsequent mythologizing of the humble cowboy, with his fascination with the preeminent photographer of movement, Eadweard Muybridge, Remington created works of drama, motion, and legend. First submitting sketches of his early trips to popular contemporary magazines such as Outing, The Century Magazine and Harper's Weekly, Remington soon found an audience for his figurative reproductions of living myths.
Supplying an eager audience with documentary-style images of how wild-west enthusiasts had convinced themselves lay in those lawless lands, the artist became the favorite of the rough-and-tumble, macho President Roosevelt. A Dash for the Timber is consequently a prime example of the enterprising young Remington entering the public consciousness of American myth-making.
Remington's popularity stemmed from his rejection of the established norms of success. Painting wholly American subjects at a time when spiritual landscapes was the norm and shunning the prerequisite of studying in Europe when it was seen as essential for a successful painter, Remington began focusing on large-scale canvases once he had consolidated his position as the nation's most popular magazine illustrator. Drawing on his vast store of drawings, sketches and experiences from his previous trips west, Remington focused solely on staging figurative reproductions of everyday life in the American West. Capturing this scene while on assignment with Harper's Weekly alongside General Cook on the trail of Geronimo, the rebel Apache, Remington’s depiction of the horse's limbs in movement was triggered by his respect and study of the works of the pioneering horse studies undertaken Muybridge. Utterly rejecting landscapes, Remington painted in A Dash for the Timber to the brief his commissioner defined as “a life-threatening situation”, a theme which would resonate in much of his work.
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