Hiawatha's Friends, 1889
Frederic Remington (American, 1861–1909)
Oil on canvas; 20 x 28 1/4 in. (50.8 x 71.8 cm)
Anonymous Gift, 1962 (62.241.3)
Late in 1888, Remington received a commission to illustrate Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's epic poem "The Song of Hiawatha" (1855) for a deluxe edition to be published by Houghton Mifflin in 1900. Remington executed 500 line drawings for the margins of the book as well as 22 grisaille paintings, one for each of the cantos of the poem. Hiawatha's Friends, dated 1889, accompanies canto 6, which describes the hero's two closest friends, Chibiabos the musician and Kwasind the strong man. This painting, which does not appear to depict a particular incident in the canto, is captioned "Pitched it sheer into the river . . . / Where it still is seen in Summer." These lines and the setting, with a jagged boulder in the river, allude to one of Kwasind's feats of strength. Taunted with accusations of laziness, he threw a huge rock into the Pauwating River where it was visible above the waterline during the summer months. The grisaille paintings were reproduced as photogravures in the Houghton Mifflin edition.