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Art and Music: Remington & Dvorak

Frederic Remington

(October 4, 1861 - December 26, 1909)

Frederic Sackrider Remington was an American painter, illustrator, and sculptor who specialized in depictions of the Old American West. He concentrated on the last quarter of the 19th century American West with action images of cowboys, American Indians, and the U.S. Cavalry. His style was naturalistic and impressionistic, but his focus was more on the people and animals of the West, rather than the landscape.

Remington was born in Canton, New York, in 1861 to Seth Pierre Remington and Clara Bascomb Sackrider. He briefly attended the art school at Yale University, but he found formal art training too boring, particularly drawing still life objects. He preferred action drawing. At the age of nineteen, Remington went to Montana, where he was captivated by scenes of the “wild, wild West” that he had imagined since his childhood. The trip gave Remington a more authentic view of the West than some of the later artists and writers who followed in his footsteps. It also produced his first art sale. The magazine Harper's Weekly published Remington’s sketch of a cowboy on horseback.

In 1884, Remington moved to Kansas City and started to sketch and paint in earnest. He soon had enough success selling his paintings to see art as a real profession. Remington returned to the East in 1885 to be closer to major publishers. His timing was excellent as newspaper interest in the dying West was increasing. His “cowboy” experiences in the old West, although highly exaggerated, gave him credibility with the eastern publishers looking for authenticity. His illustrations and sketches found an eager audience among readers of Collier's and Harper's Weekly.

In addition to being a very successful illustrator, Remington also became well-known as a painter and sculptor. His first one-man show, in 1890, was very well received, and Remington went on to gain fame and fortune as a serious painter and sculptor. When his full-color oil painting, Return of the Blackfoot War Party, was exhibited at the National Academy of Design, the New York Herald commented that Remington would “one day be listed among our great American painters.”

In his final two years of life, Remington’s style was heavily Impressionistic, even though most of his paintings were done from memory inside his studio. Remington had become so obese from heavy eating at numerous celebrity banquets and social gatherings over the years that he was unable to venture outside to paint in the open air. At the time of his death on December 26, 1909, Remington weighed nearly 300 pounds.

Antonin Dvorak

(September 18, 1841 – May 1, 1904)

Antonín Leopold Dvorak was a Czech composer of Romantic music, who was inspired by the folk music of Moravia and his native Bohemia. His works include operas, symphonies, and chamber music. His best-known works include his 9th Symphony from the New World Symphony, as well as his Slavonic Dances, American String Quartet, and Cello Concerto in B minor.

Dvorak was born on September 8, 1841 in Nelahozeves, near Prague, Czech Republic (known as the Austrian Empire at the time). His parents recognized his musical talent early, and he began receiving his musical education at the village school at age 6. From 1857 to 1859, he studied music in Prague's Organ School, and gradually became very accomplished on both the violin and the viola. Throughout the 1860s, he played viola in the Bohemian Provisional Theater Orchestra. However, the need to supplement his income by teaching left Dvo?ák with limited free time, and in 1871 he gave up playing in the orchestra to devote full time to composing.

During the 1870s, Dvorak’s reputation as a composer took root. It was a period of prolific composition for him. He composed his second string quintet in 1875, and in 1877, his music attracted the attention of Johannes Brahms, who was instrumental in getting Dvorak's first set of Slavonic Dances published in 1878. These compositions were an immediate success. In 1883, Dvorak was invited to visit England where he appeared to great acclaim. His Symphony No. 7 was written for the city of London, where it premiered in 1885. In 1892 Dvorak moved to New York to serve as director of the National Conservatory of Music, a position he held until 1895. In the winter and spring of 1893, while in New York, Dvorak wrote Symphony No.9, "From the New World", one of his most famous pieces. He spent the summer of 1893 with his family in the Czech-speaking community of Spillville, Iowa, to which some of his cousins had earlier immigrated. While there, he composed the String Quartet in F (the "American") and the String Quintet in E flat, as well as a Sonatina for violin and piano. During his final years, Dvorak concentrated on composing opera and chamber music. In 1896, he visited London for the last time to hear the premiere of his Cello Concerto in B minor. Dvorak served as director of the Conservatory in Prague Conservatory from 1901 until his death from heart failure in 1904.

In Dvorak's lifetime, only five of his symphonies were widely known, the most famous being Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95, From the New World. Dvorak wrote the symphony between January and May, 1893, while he was in New York. Dvorak was interested in indigenous American music, and he claimed that he used elements from American music in this work. Neil Armstrong took a recording of the New World Symphony with him on the first Moon landing in 1969.

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