Test your knowledge with a quiz
Remington, Fall of the Cowboy
- In the late 19th century, the United States saw the closing of the frontier and the completion of westward expansion.
- Cowboys played an essential role in the ranching industry by driving cattle across the open range in the mid-19th century, but the invention of barbed wire fencing, the increased privatization of land, and the growth of the railroad brought an end to the cowboys’ way of life.
- Remington’s painting uses a monochromatic palette, quiet winter setting, and minimal movement to evoke nostalgia about the end of the era of the cowboy.
- In 1893, Frederick Jackson Turner argued that settlement of the west had ended the frontier era in the United States.
- As the 19th century came to a close, the image of the cowboy began to transform into a mythic persona that reflects a romanticized history of the U.S. frontier.
More to think about
Remington’s depictions of cowboy combine details of close observation with idealizations of the American West. Compare this 1895 photograph to Remington’s painting. What is similar? What is different? How does the photograph present cowboys differently than the painting?
Smarthistory images for teaching and learning:
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