On the Southern Plains, 1907
Frederic Remington (American, 1861–1909)
Oil on canvas; 30 1/8 x 51 1/8 in. (76.5 x 129.9 cm)
Gift of Several Gentlemen, 1911 (11.192)
The American soldier in the West was one of Remington's favorite heroic themes. On the Southern Plains, which the artist referred to in his diary as "Cavalry in Sixties," probably depicts a scene in the war against the Plains Indians during the 1860s. For his group of soldiers charging an unseen enemy, Remington took historical license. Their uniforms and weapons date from the Civil War into the 1870s; like the gear used by many soldiers stationed in the West, they do not always adhere to army standards. The seemingly disorderly group of soldiers does not follow the actual attack formation practiced by contemporary U.S. cavalrymen in the West (typically a straight horizontal line). Though the soldiers are the painting's primary focus, the picture demonstrates Remington's new interest in landscape in an impressionist style. The bright colors and rapid, sometimes stippled, brushstrokes are particularly appropriate to the rough terrain, the rising dust, and the flickering effects of brilliant sunlight.