Tuesday, December 06, 2005
"The Bronco Buster"
This Remington bronze is so emblematic of Western bronzes in general that it is worth pondering for a moment. This photo is from a 1996 Mongerson/Wunderlich Gallery catalogue. The gallery was in Chicago and was linked to a different Mongerson and Wunderlich partnership, which was the marriage of the two parties. Previously, Rudi Wunderlich had been a co-owner of the Kennedy Galleries in New York City, one of the most important galleries handling Western art. For instance, they were Harry Jackson's gallery. As far as I can tell, the Mongerson/Wunderlich Gallery is currently in limbo.
This is what Rudi says about this bronze: "Many of the period sculptures had their bronzes cast at Bertelli's Roman Bronze Works. Remington's first bronze and signature piece, Bronco Buster, was cast first with the sand casting method by Henry-Bonnard Foundry. We know of 64 casts produced by this method. Then Remington went with Bertelli to Roman Bronze Works of which approximately 90 casts were produced before Remington's death."
This photo is of cast #144. If the same mold was used straight through, it would have lost a certain amount of detail. (More if the mold were made of traditional materials, less if the mold were made with modern materials, which it likely was not.) Remington is known to have enjoyed going to the foundry to work on the wax, sometimes making rather drastic changes -- moving arms, converting leather chaps to fur chaps and so on. In a sense, he was creating "one of a kind" bronzes. Otherwise, for modern sculptors there were an unusually large number of castings.
What confuses the issue is that this piece is so popular (one often sees a casting behind the President of the USA in the Oval Office) that many knock-offs have been made. The best would have been castings made from molds made from an original. The worst would be the ones made by SE Asia craftsmen working from photos. The cheapest ones are only a few hundred dollars, though their owners often believe they have "real" Remington castings.
But here's a problem no one anticipated: breaking a horse this way is now considered "cruel" by many people who have seen or read "The Horse Whisperer," so suddenly this bronze is "politically incorrect." Now what? Where is a bronze of a "horse whisperer?" Who would buy it?