American painter, illustrator and sculptor Frederic Remington is perhaps best known as one of the most gifted interpreters of the American West. His early work appeared as illustrations in popular journals, but as he matured, he turned his focus to painting and sculpture. In fact, his work in bronze became so renown that it has inspired many reproductions of dubious origins.
To understand a Remington bronze reproduction, it is necessary to know the history. As a sculptor, Remington (1861-1909) cast 22 subjects. The first foundry he worked with was the Henry-Bonnard Bronze Company in New York. Four of his sculptures were cast in bronze there.
In 1900, Remington began working exclusively with Roman Bronze Works in New York, which produced his bronzes until his death in 1909. Remington’s widow, Eva, authorized the foundry to continue casting her late husband’s bronzes until her death in 1918. By direction of Eva’s will, the factory destroyed the original molds shortly after her death. Consequently, the original and authentic bronzes were produced only from 1895 to 1918. Anything produced after this time frame is not original nor authentic.
In 1923, the Remington Museum opened, holding Eva’s collection of Frederic’s art and archives. The institution maintained the copyrights on his bronzes until they expired in the 1960s. Illegal forgeries were made starting soon after Eva’s death. Since the copyrights expired, there have been replicas made in just about all shapes, sizes and colors. Some places are even making bronzes that Remington “might have made if he had lived longer.” There is no law governing the manufacture of these copies even though many of them clearly say “Copyright by Frederic Remington” on them.
The words “authentic” and “original” do not apply to Remington reproductions. Most copies bear no indication of where they were cast. Authentic sculptures are made with the foundry’s name clearly shown on the bronze base. Authentic casts are rarely mounted on a marble base; however, duplicates are.
Original bronzes are numbered sequentially in the order they were made, i.e. 1, 2, 3, etc. Given that they were also produced to meet demand, they are not numbered as sets or limited runs, such as 1/100 or 19/50. Many copies are misleadingly numbered in this “3/100” fashion.
The most common sculpture reproduction method is for a sculptor to recreate the piece from wax and clay after studying photos of the original. A mold is then made from that model to cast copies in bronze.
Another popular method is making recasts, or “surmoulages,” which are bronzes made from another bronze, not from the artist’s master mold or model. They lack the quality and detail of the original work. The value is minimal.
There are literally thousands of copies of each of the 22 Remington bronzes flooding the world market; consequently, the values are marginal due to the quality of the bronze. Lack of well-defined detail, such as the shape and definition of hands, clothes and other distinguishing characteristics of an original are ways to identify a modern reproduction.
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