Posted by Catherine Daab on Thursday, October 4, 2012
Frederic Remington and His Bronze Sculptures: An Introduction- Series1
In 1989 Frederic Remington’s sculpture of Coming through the Rye was auctioned by Christie’s New York for 4.4 million dollars. In 2008 his Wounded Bunkie sold for 5.6 million dollars at Sotheby’s New York. There are only 17 Coming through the Rye from the hand of Remington in existence. Numbers 1 -8 and two unnumbered were created before he died. Numbers 9-15 were cast after his death. All but 2 of his Rye works are accounted for . Given that a time factor from the 1989 to the present is between 3 and 6 times the original sale of 4.4 million relying on auction sales, it would not be unreasonable to argue that if Rye was sold today it could possibly fetch 13 million dollars or more.
Artnews reported that Remington is number 8 on the hit parade of forged artists including Dali, Corot, Chirico, and Modigliani. Given that the quantity of forgeries for Dali is in the hundreds of thousands, it would not be unreasonable to argue that Remington fakes albeit not in the hundreds of thousands could be in the tens of thousands especially since the copyright ended in the 1960s allowing anyone to make a reproduction. From FAR’s investigations of various art scams it would not be beyond the pale to assert that the gang from La Bella Principessa is waiting in the wings to unveil the missing Rye and its value.
The purpose of this Remington series is to provide the structures and methodology to identify the copies, reproductions, and the scams so as not to fall victim to those who assume that with the help of the mass media, lip sticking the pig, an absence of real fraud laws, failure to prosecute, and the indifference, and unsophistication of the art consuming public, duping is as easy as selling a $10 genuine Rolex on the streets of NYC.
Frederic Sackler Remington was born in 1861 in Canton, New York. His family was involved in publishing and his father Seth was an officer in the union army. Frederic was somewhat of drifter and his father sent to military schools to develop direction in life and some ambition. Frederic was unsuccessful in soldiering and found that jobs in an office were unfulfilling. He liked the outdoors and after three semesters studying art at Yale university left to be at his father’s side. His father died shortly after and Frederic left for the western frontier. Upon receiving an inheritance from his father, he purchased a ranch which he sold and a bar in Kansas which he sold as well.
At nineteen after a trip to Montana he sent an illustration of western life to Harper’s which was accepted and started his career as an illustrator. Remington continued producing illustrations and added paintings, writings and sculptures of life on the western frontier. During this period he married a childhood sweetheart Eva Caten, lived in New York City where he studied at the Art Student League and had a home in New Rochelle with an attached studio. He grew tired of his flat works, and began to focus on sculpting. After completing his 22nd sculpture Remington died. His wife Eva carried the copyright until 1960. It has been argued that as soon as Remington made his works they were copied by others including the foundry making them. Remington did not keep records of his productions.
The Lost Wax Method of Creating the Bronzes
Remington used the sand cast and but preferred the Lost Wax Method of creating bronzes. Lost Wax ( cire perdue) has its roots in antiquity. Its earliest use allegedly took place in 408-407 B.C. The process starts with creating a wax model of the work to be developed. It is followed by making a rubber mold of the wax while the rubber is in liquid form. The rubber is cut away after hardening. Molten wax is poured into the rubber mold and when cooled is removed from the rubber. Plaster is then applied to the wax model. The plaster/wax mold is fired and the wax melts into a liquid which flows out of bottom openings. The plaster cavern which has lost its wax is then filled with liquid bronze. When the bronze has cooled the plaster mold is broken over the bronze. The bronze work must be scraped clean of any deformities and to make sure the work resembles the intention of the sculptor.
Remington’s Bronze Oeuvre
The Scalp (Wiki)
Broncho Buster (Wiki)
Frederic was detail oriented, striving always to create better works, and had a keen interest in cowboys, Indians and the Wild West. He began sculpting in 1895 using the lost wax method to create Broncho Buster his first sculpture. He ultimately created 22 different action filled sculptures of cowboys, Indians, reflecting the challenges facing individuals living in the west. He created images of the cowboy fighting the Indians, Indians as warriors, the cowboy’s horse facing a snake and a team of cowboys riding into town with guns a blazing after a week on the range. His 22 sculptures were:
1. 1896 Broncho Buster
2. 1896 Wounded Bunkie
3. 1898 Wicked Pony
4. 1898The Scalp
5. 1900 The Norther
6. 1901 The Cheyenne
7. 1901 The Buffalo Signal
8. 1902 Coming Through the Rye
9. 1902 The Mountain Man
10. 1903 Polo
11. 1904 The Sargent
12. 1904 The Rattesnake
13. 1905 Dragoons 1850
14. 1906 The Outlaw
15. 1906 Paleolithic Man
16. 1907 The Horse Thief
17. 1907 The Buffalo Horse
18. 1908 The Cowboy
19. 1908 The Savage
20. 1909 The Trooper of the Plain
21. 1909 Broncho Buster (Large)
22. 1909 The Stampede
The Current Remington Fakes Market
Auction records reveal that few Remingtons come up for sale. Remington bronzes do have a demand even if not authentic. The problem is that upon finding one, the buyer thinks that the find is the real deal and not a reproduction or copy. Reproduced Remington sculptures come in all shapes, sizes, and mediums. Some are life size, made of plaster and identified as authentic. Auction houses actually sell reproductions as well as museums. Reproductions range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars. What are missing in most of the reproductions are the details of Remington’s style. Original works come with lariats, guns, and the mustaches of the portrayed cowboys. Most of the reproductions lack such details and appear as lumps of a given medium. Given that Remington bronzes are currently reproduced by foundries, museums, and even aunt Tillie, it is impossible to provide a number being offered for sale. The chances of obtaining an authentic one are equal to those of obtaining a genuine Dali work-almost non-existent.
Series #2 will examine the nature of these copies in terms of where they are found, how they are labeled
Table of Remington Comparables Used to Establish General Trends in Factoring
Breakdown of comparables 1989 to 2010 Factor of increase=2010/1989
Bronco Buster 228,000 2,617,000 9.3
Mountain Man 310,500 1,825,000 5.9
Cheyenne 550,000 3,177,000 5.8
Wounded Bunkie 1,982,500 5,648,000 2.9
Stampede Eliminated only one sale in 2010 for $2650 Reproduction
The Outlaw 600,000 3,401,000 5.6
The Norther 3,632,000 No recent
The Wicked Pony 2,752,500 No recent
Trooper of the Plains 442,500 No recent
Coming Through the Rye 4,400,000 No recent
Appraised Value Analysis
In 1989 the 1902 creation of “Cowboys “was sold for 4.4 million. There are no recent sales of a similar piece of this caliber. As such the investigator used Remington comparables of similar sale pricing which occurred in the early 1990s and tracked recent sales to determine the average/mean factor of increase. The mean factor of increase was 5.9. That is, the increase of value of 5.9 in going from 1989 to the present were driven by the factors of- original, rarity, no bad condition problems, same size, color, signature, foundry stamp, sound provenance, subject matter, earlier edition, age, and connoiseurial stamp. This would make the value of the present one close to 26 million dollars. An additional approach would be to track the increase of art in general from the 1990s to the present and factor the increase times the 1989 price of 4.4 million. This approach however suffers from the logical fallacy of division- drawing conclusions from the whole to the parts. The investigator decided that the one comparable which better matches Cowboys more than the others and not suffering from logical problems is Remington’s Wounded Bunkie. Paralleling Cowboys in details such as cowboys, horses, lariats, more than one individual, representing a team, camaraderie, hoofs in the air, flight, and leaning figure, Wounded Bunkie is a closest comparable. The opinion of value based on the Wounded Bunkie factor of increase (2.9) would make the present Cowboy worth about 13 million dollars.