Monday, October 27, 2014

A Close Look at Remington's "A Dash for the Timber" + Food: "7-UP" Biscuits

"A Dash for the Timber" (1889) by artist Frederic Remington
"A Dash for 
the Timber"
Oil on Canvas (c. 1889)
The Amon Carter Museum
of American Art
in Ft. Worth, Texas

From time to time ARTSnFOOD selects a work of art to examine, very closely. This week we take a look at "A Dash for the Timber" (1889) by the artist Frederic Remington. As we look, notice the brush strokes, notice the under painting of color behind the surface and notice so many of the details which are easily missed. With a typical long viewing, usually 20 to 40 seconds* in front of a painting in a museum, we see so little, but upon a closer look all of the details become fascinating. *Most works of art in museums hold the viewers attention for only 3 or 4 seconds, before the museum guest moves on to look at the next artwork.

Between 1885 and 1888, Frederic Remington made a number of trips to the Southwest, often to cover the activities of the U.S. Cavalry and their conflicts with the Apache Indians. He was deeply influenced by the stark landscape of the region and filled his sketchbooks with color notes and observations about the special quality of the light. In 1889, he wrote to a friend that he was working on "a big cowboy picture," and he needed two or three pairs of different chaps for reference. He was referring to this painting, which launched his career when it received favorable critical attention at the National Academy of Design in New York the following year. The overall effect of the this composition is riveting, as the fleeing riders gallop forward directly toward the viewer. Interestingly the painting has a cinematic quality which anticipates the many "Western" movies that were to happen a generation or two later! Frederic Remington lived from 1861 until 1909.

Detail of a cowboy's profile
from "A Dash for the Timber"
by artist Frederic Remington

The rise of the cowboy as a romantic hero of the American West began shortly after the American Civil War, and Remington was among those who played a part in its subsequent development. One of the cowboys' most effective supporters was Theodore Roosevelt, who was also a friend of Remington. Roosevelt viewed cowboys as the wild riders of the range, the final players in the epic drama of the American frontier and "as hardy and self-reliant as any men who ever lived."

The Amon Carter Museum of American Art
considers Frederic Remington's "A Dash for the Timber"
one of the most important works of art

in their permanent collection. 
The Amon Carter Museum of American Art
in Ft. Worth, Texas. 

A Close Look at
Frederic Remington's
"A Dash for the Timber"
Painted in 1889

Remington had seen the photographic work of Eadweard Muybridge and
knew how to realistically paint a galloping horse.
In 1872, Muybridge set up a series of 24 cameras and was able to take multiple shots of the running habits of various racehorses, in a kind of film-strip style. The photographs demonstrated that all four legs often left the ground, although not as artists had depicted them, with the legs stretched out fore and aft, but rather with the four legs tucked up under the horse.

Eadweard Muybridge's sequential photos
 "The horse in motion".

Remington painted in his studio using his sketches and notes as his main resources.  Imagine how difficult it would be to capture the realism of this action painting - galloping horses with riders bouncing around and shooting - strictly from his visual memory, notes and sketches.

The artist used focus to make the painting feel real. The cowboys and their horses in front are in sharp focus, the cowboy in back and the pursuing Indians are painted in soft focus with very little detail.
Detail photo of the Indians in pursuit. 
The information is all there but executed with only a few brush strokes
for each horse and rider.

Remington knew working cowboys, their gear and the horses they rode. The revolver above contains all of the details needed to identify it, also there is no doubt the bridle on the horse is real  (notice his knowledge of how it is all put together), also real are the holster / gun belt and the specific whip, hanging from his wrist. The smoke from the other rider's rifle helps to define this riders profile, giving better contrast and making him stand out.

Detail photo of the gun, whip and part of the bridle.
Horses are not easy to draw or paint, but Remington makes them
very convincing and realistic.

The looseness of his brushstrokes make for a great painting. 
Although this painting was the result of endless drawing, color studies, 
the making of a cartoon, all before the final painting in the studio,
his brushstrokes have a quickness and ease to them. It is as if Remington was right there in front of the riders, with no time to waste while quickly capturing the image .

Notice how the shirt of this cowboy has been painted over a yellow background (under-painting), you can see the same color poking through the dust and all parts of the painting. This technique helps to tie the composition together.

The horse's mane is made up of just a few, quick, upward strokes of thin brown paint, 
but his equine anatomical structure, proportions, transitions of color and the tension in the horse's face reflects all of the detailed studies Remington 
must have gone through to the make this final painting.

Capturing the moment of death. 
The Cowboy pictured has been shot through the heart, 
you can see the blood on the front of his shirt. 
The photojournalist Capa captured a photo of a soldier being killed during the Spanish Civil War - almost by accident, clicking the shutter just as the bullet hit the soldier. That photo was a remarkable achievement. Remington must do the same thing but only using his observation talents, ie: being with the Cavalry during battle and other real life experiences. Because Remington's rendition of the moment of death is so real, without the aid of a fast camera for reference, the appreciation of it makes his version even more impressive.

"The Falling Soldier" is a photograph
taken by photojournalist Robert Capa
at the moment of death.
Spanish Civil War, c. 1936.

The only horse shown wounded, this white horse has been grazed by a bullet. 
The white horse was selected for this detail, because blood 
shows up on white, but would be lost on a reddish brown or black horse.

Cowboys are rugged and they have their own fashionable outfit, 
which cowboys still wear to this day: a wide brimmed "cowboy hat" 
that can be tied around the chin, a neckerchief, animal hide chaps, 
pants made from durable cloth, a sturdy belt, a long sleeved cotton shirt 
and "Cowboy" boots.

Almost lost in the composition
 is an eighth cowboy, fourth from the left, 
in the background. 

The lost cowboy's horse's head peeks out 
from below the white horse as seen above.

An overview of the lost cowboy and his horse.

One cowboy is possibly Mexican, he is wearing a large sombrero. 

There may be eight cowboys but there are 
nine horses in this line up.
This horse is the pack horse, 
and someone took the time to hook 
the cast iron skillet to its side, eggs and all.
The attack must have interrupted breakfast.

Detail photo of the skillet with eggs still in the pan.

Notice the buffalo hide chaps on this cowboy.

His rifle is also very detailed even if slightly loose in the painting of the barrel, 
but he is definitely concentrating as he looks through the rifle's site. 
Posture and hand positions are all correct and believable.

The title is "A Dash to the Timber". These are the timber(s), a place to gain cover. It is interesting to see Remington's painting technique, with his quick scumbling-in
of the sky and foliage. 
Below is a detail of the brush technique Remington used in the painting.

Above is a large final look at Remington's "A Dash for the Timber" (Oil on Canvas, 1889, at The Amon Carter Museum of American Art). 

Stop by and see this Remington masterpiece the next time you are in Ft. Worth Texas.

(Source: All photos were taken by ARTSnFOOD staff, with permission of the Amon Carter Museum staff. Introductory text came from information provided by the museum.)


Fast, easy to make and so good! Recipe is hard to find. 

4 cups Bisquick brand baking mix
1 cup sour cream
1 cup 7-Up
1/2 cup melted butter


• Mix Bisquick, sour cream and 7-Up. Dough will be very soft. 
• Knead and fold dough until dough incorporates all of your Bisquick mix. 
• Pat dough out and cut biscuits using a round biscuit or cookie cutter. 
• Pour melted butter into the bottom of a baking sheet pan or 9x13 casserole dish. 
• Place biscuits on top of the melted butter.
• Bake for 12-15 minutes at 425 degrees or until brown.
(Source: Recipe is from a friend & included in the Atkinson Family Cookbook)

Until later,
ARTSnFOOD, is an online publication dedicated to "The Pursuit of Happiness through the Arts and Food." ™ All rights reserved for all content. Concept, Original Art, Original Text & "Original or Assigned Photography" are © Copyright 2014 Jack A. Atkinson under all International intellectual property and copyright laws. All photographs were taken and/or used with permission. Artworks © individual artists, fabricators, respective owners or assignees.


  1. I disagree with the though that there are eggs in the frying pan. Eggs would have easily fallen out during the packing of the pan much less a hard chase. Remington has another painting of prospectors cooking frying pan bread. In this painting, the content is white and stuck in the pan. It would make more since for it to be a flour based substance that has not been cooked yet.

  2. Thank you for that thoughtful post. So many details I had never seen before!

  3. Thank you for your post. I am in the process of studying to be a docent at the Amon Carter and love this painting. You gave me some more insights to it that I never noticed before.