Students will examine Remington’s The Cheyenne and identify the challenges he faced in creating a horse that appears to be airborne. They will then work with a partner and go through a similar problem-solving process to create their own airborne sculpture.
Intended Age GroupElementary (grades K-5)
Length of LessonOne 45 minute lesson
Standards AreaVisual Arts
Students will be able to:
- explain the problems Remington faced when he started sculpting in bronze and how he worked with others to solve these problems;
- overcome challenges faced when making an airborne sculpture; and
- work with others to complete a task.
- Warm-up: Divide students up into small groups of three or four. Have them use the materials provided to build a free-standing structure that is as tall as possible. You have two minutes to brainstorm with the people in your groups and four minutes to build the structure. Debrief the problem-solving activity with the students. What worked and what didn’t? How did working together help you build the tallest structure possible?
- Show students The Cheyenne and share with them key points from the About the Art section about the problem-solving Remington engaged in with the foundry. Define “airborne” and discuss the challenge Remington faced in making his airborne horse sculpture. Remington cleverly used a cape to balance the weight of his sculpture. Brainstorm other objects he could have used instead. Have students compare their problem solving strategies from the warm-up to Remington’s process.
- Tell students that they are going to make their sculpture of an airborne animal. Allow students to work with a partner. Have them start by looking through books and/or magazines to choose an airborne animal. Have them decide on a support, just as Remington chose to include a cape on The Cheyenne.
- Give them a choice of recycled materials, some Model Magic (or other sculpting product). The sculpture will be more abstract and less detailed than The Cheyenne but the primary goal is for them to take the problem of having to make a sculpture from recycled materials and to make their animal appear to be airborne.
- Debrief the experience. First compare the similarities and differences of their process to Remington’s. What limitations did they have?
- One set of the following for every three to four students: three paper cups, 10 index cards, four clothespins
- An assortment of recycled materials, including bottles, food containers, etc.
- Model Magic, Sculpey, or clay for each student to make a sculpture (amounts will vary based on plastic containers used)
- Books and/or magazines with pictures of airborne animals (National Geographic is a great resource)
- About the Art section on The Cheyenne
- One color copy of the painting for every four students, or the ability to project the image onto a wall or screen
- Language Arts
- Oral Expression and Listening
- Visual Arts
- Envision and Critique to Reflect
- Invent and Discover to Create
- Observe and Learn to Comprehend
- Relate and Connect to Transfer
21st Century Skills
- Critical Thinking & Reasoning
- Information Literacy
About the Art
Who Made It?
Frederic Remington was born in Canton, New York, and attended the Yale School of Art, where he studied drawing and played football. When he was twenty years old, he traveled west for a vacation and mailed a rough sketch to Harper’s Weekly magazine, kicking off his career as an illustrator. He had tried his hand at sheep ranching in Kansas, but after a couple of years returned to New York, making trips west from his home in the East. Most of his work was created in his studio in New Rochelle, New York. Remington’s artistic career began with painting and drawing, but a friend encouraged him to try his hand at sculpture in 1895. He made 24 sculptures in his last 14 years as an artist. Remington liked the permanence of bronze sculpture: “My water colors will fade—but I am to endure in bronze,” he said. He died at age 48 at the height of his career.
What Inspired It?
Remington felt compelled to record an American West that he believed to be disappearing. He loved to portray the action and energy of the West and did not feel confined by what were considered the limits of the bronze medium. In this sculpture, Remington has defied the traditional means of supporting sculpture, making the falling robe a part of the action. The horse and rider are full of energy and appear to be moving quickly. Remington often worked from photographs to achieve this authentic image of motion. To create this bronze sculpture, Remington used a method called lost wax casting. A “cast” is a form that is created by pouring liquid metal into a mold. Although it is over 6000 years old, the lost wax method had been newly introduced in the United States during Remington’s time. The process involves six different steps—during each step a new model of the sculpture is made. Lost wax casting allows the artist to make quick changes and fine-tune the wax model before each pour. Remington took advantage of this opportunity for experimentation, and often visited the foundry that produced his casts at this stage. His additional artistic input is evident in the Denver Art Museum’s sculpture, especially in the textures and color of the piece.
Compare the smooth skin of the Indian to the rippled musculature of the horse’s flank to the high relief texture of the buffalo robe. This sculpture shows the texture variation that was possible using the lost wax method, and it is evidence that this cast received a great deal of personal attention from the artist.
The golden honey color of this particular cast is much lighter than other casts of The Cheyenne, which may be evidence that Remington himself was involved in selecting it. He usually preferred a blue-black patina, so this was probably an experiment.
In 1878, Eadweard Muybridge’s (MY-bridge) photos of racehorses in motion proved that all four hooves leave the ground at one time. Wanting to show this in bronze, Remington added a buffalo robe falling toward the ground as a support for the flying horse.
Muybridge’s photos also revealed another misconception: in their off-the-ground position, the horse's legs were bunched together under the belly, rather than in the “hobbyhorse attitude,” with front legs stretched forward and hind legs backward, which was traditional in painting. In using this pose for The Cheyenne, Remington was one of the first artists to take advantage of this new information.
The horse’s mane and tail add to the sculpture’s sense of motion—they appear to be blown back by the wind.
Remington’s signature changes location from cast to cast. On ours, it appears on the base.