Frederic Remington’s A Dash for the Timber is regarded as his first masterpiece. Completed in 1889, at the age of 28, the young Remington had already collected a wealth of western experiences and artifacts that enabled him to create the action-packed painting. To learn more about the painting and the artist, I spoke with Ron Tyler, Director of the Amon Carter Museum where A Dash for the Timber hangs, in Fort Worth, Texas.
1) The painting was commissioned by E.C. Converse, a wealthy New York industrialist who wanted a painting that “portrayed a life-threatening situation”.
2) This theme struck a chord with Remington, who would go on to paint many “life-threatening situations”. Later in life, Remington said that the West was where real men persevered. It was where he found “men with the bark (hair) on.”
3) E.C. Converse knew of Remington from his work with Harper’s Weekly. Magazines hired illustrators to create images for their stories in the era prior to the widespread use of print photography. Harper’s Weekly assigned Remington to join General Cook on the trail of Geronimo, the rebel Apache. In this way, Remington was his era’s version of an “embedded” journalist.
4) Remington’s portrayal of airborne horses was revolutionary in 1889. He was influenced by photographer Eadweard Muybridge, who invented a technique for taking fast-action sequential photographs. Muybridge was the first to document on film that a horse is momentarily airborne. He published the ground-breaking book, “Animal Locomotion” in 1887.
5) A Dash for the Timber was a renowned painting from the day it first appeared publicly at The National Academy of Design in 1889 (on loan from E.C. Converse). It was later bought by a private individual and donated to Washington University. In 1945 the university sold it to collector David Findlay Sr. It’s unclear how much it sold for, but Washington University was able to purchase a Picasso and a Matisse thanks to the sale. Finally, the David Findlay Gallery sold A Dash for the Timber to Mr. Amon Carter, where it now resides at the Amon Carter Museum.
Author’s Note: Thanks to Ron Tyler of the Amon Carter Museum for taking the time to interview for this blog posting.