Denver Artwork Museum’s present exhibition appears to be like into the souls of two of artwork’s most well-known painters


Winslow Homer and Frederic Remington are the cultural consolation meals of American artwork, two icons, each well-known of their day, who formed the nation’s picture of itself with their vivid depictions of the frontiers and frontlines of the expansionism period.
However whereas their careers and material overlapped, we not often discuss them in the identical sentence. Historical past has categorized Remington as a Western painter whereas Homer, the extra extremely regarded of the 2, is finest remembered for his New England seascapes.
Nonetheless, they’d a lot in widespread, because the Denver Artwork Museum’s “Pure Forces: Winslow Homer and Frederic Remington” goes to nice lengths to reveal. The 2 painters have been born a technology aside — Homer in 1836, Remington in 1861– but they adopted strikingly related paths.

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“Pure Forces: Winslow Homer and Frederic Remington” is co-curated by DAM’s Thomas Brent Smith and Jennifer R. Henneman, the Portland Museum’s Diana Greenwold and Maggie Adler, from the Amon Carter Museum of American Artwork. It continues by Sept. 7 on the Denver Artwork Museum, 13th Avenue between Broadway and Bannock streets. Timed tickets needs to be bought upfront. Information at 720-865-5000 or

It’s a serious exhibition with greater than 60 artistic endeavors on show and at least 4 curators formally credited for producing it. The present is power-packed with the drama that each painters have been identified for conjuring: cowboys and crashing waves, galloping stallions and imaginary heroes standing tall in opposition to pure components.
It additionally makes a powerful case for his or her commonalities and, by extension, serves to point out how American artists of many stripes labored and constructed reputations through the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Each artists have been largely self-taught, and every received early renown as journal correspondents overlaying the conflicts of their period. Homer received his begin depicting scenes of the Civil Warfare whereas Remington produced photos of the Spanish-American Warfare and the battles fought between westward-bound adventurers and the Indians they displaced.
The exhibition opens with acquainted examples from each artists throughout this a part of their careers, notably Homer’s 1863 “Sharpshooter,” which has a soldier pointing a rifle from excessive up in a tree and Remington’s 1898 “Capt. Grimes’s Battery Going Up El Poso Hill,” a scene painted throughout an expedition in Cuba. Warfare, in these scenes, is a tough but courageous endeavor, carried out by noble males.
It’s unimaginable to overstate the influence of those sorts of photos on American attitudes towards the navy campaigns of the time. They have been as a lot journalism as they have been propaganda created within the identify of murderous acts, a few of which we now acknowledge as shameful components of U.S. historical past. “Pure Forces” has a very good share of fabric that many will discover troubling in that regard, particularly Remington’s later depictions of Indians battling on horseback. The curators acknowledge and apologize for the state of affairs, although the exhibition doesn’t linger on moral questions.
As an alternative, it presents the fabric as each artwork and artifact and focuses on the artists’ skilled paths, stopping subsequent at factors east, the place every hung out portray the pure atmosphere and the hunters, boaters and vacationers who occupied it. Right here, we get what you may anticipate from a Winslow Homer exhibit, scenes like his 1870 “An Adirondack Lake,” with a looking information and his canoe perched on the sting of the big lake, each stray tree department and ripple of water painted in romantic element.
The shock on this part is a sampling of small oils by Remington, comparable to his “Impressionistic Fall Panorama” which makes use of a free hand to seize the dappled fields and altering leaves of the season. Remington will not be identified for his tender landscapes or for unfastened brushstrokes, so it’s fascinating to see him working outdoors the macho persona that defines him.
Much less shocking, and extra majestic, is the fare within the part that comes subsequent, which focuses on the painters’ depictions of the extra sensational elements of nature. Quiet pastures and streams are changed with turbulent oceans, wild animals and raging tides. Right here, guests encounter Homer’s well-liked “Undertow,” from 1886, capturing a determined sea rescue, and his 1893 “Fox Hunt,” an action-packed duel between a fox and a crow.
From Remington, there’s the1903 “Struggle for the Watering Gap,” which has explorers with their weapons on the prepared, defending a small oasis in a dusty, dry panorama, and 1909’s “The Buffalo Runners,” perhaps one of the best instance within the exhibit of his eager capability to seize the ability of horses at full gallop.
However earlier than the exhibit lets both painter fall into their very own cliches by way of material and portray type, it wraps up with a piece filled with examples of each taking part in with concepts and methods. Remington’s 1907 “In From the Evening Herd” is extra dudes engaged on the vary, nevertheless it’s extra reflective and hints at a painter who will get extra sentimental towards the tip of his profession. From Homer, there’s “West Level, Prouts Neck,” once more extra waves, although right here they dance and swell up into the air earlier than a burgeoning dawn; it’s an emotional scene.
That ending is vital as a result of it humanizes two artists who can appear larger-than-life, who we consider as superheroes, churning out serialized, signature works by the handfuls and promoting them off to the very best bidder. Right here, they’re experimenters, masters of a fragile craft, pushing and taking part in and reaching for one thing larger.
It’s a swell reward, and a only one, for viewers who should make their method by this exhibit in the midst of a pandemic and a concurrent, widespread public reckoning over unjust depictions of individuals of shade in media and artwork. If the required face coverings and efforts at social distancing don’t make you uncomfortable strolling by this present, Remington’s scenes of American Indians may.
That makes an exhibit that was put collectively effectively earlier than this troubled 12 months started a unique expertise than its creators may have envisioned once they began their planning. “Pure Forces” holds up beneath the stress as a result of it sticks to a well-constructed and trail-blazing narrative. It appears like a factual and important story.
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