Moonlight, Wolfc. 1904
20 1/16 in. x 26 in. (50.96 cm x 66.04 cm)
Yet the image also suggests Remington's fascination with the wolf's untamed state. The painter adopts a low vantage, only slightly higher than that of the animal, indicating a willingness on the part of this urban artist (Remington lived in and around Manhattan virtually his entire career) to identify with this creature of the wild: to stoop to its level, to become a lower form of life. In the modern age, Remington's wolf was as much an emblem of Theodore Roosevelt's "strenuous life" as Buck, the dog-cum-wolf hero of Jack London's famous novel The Call of the Wild (1903), a copy of which the artist owned. "[Buck] was a killer," wrote London admiringly, "a thing that preyed, living on the things that lived, unaided, alone, by virtue of his own strength and prowess, surviving triumphantly in a hostile environment where only the strong survived.”2 One thinks also of the aptly named Wolf Larsen, the primitive ship captain in another London novel, The Sea-Wolf (1904). Says the narrator, "The dark sun-bronze of his face went black with wrath, his eyes were ablaze. There was no clearness or sanity in them—nothing but the terrific rage of a madman. It was the wolf in him that I saw, and a mad wolf at that.”3
Like Wolf Larsen, Remington's wolf is a dying breed—a holdover from an earlier era, defiantly gazing at a modernizing world. In his novel John Ermine of the Yellowstone (1902), Remington describes two primitive men—John Ermine and a "half-breed" named Wolf-Voice—as they pass through the land: "America will never produce their like again. Her wheels will turn and her chimneys smoke ... but she never can make two figures which will bear even a remote resemblance to Wolf-Voice and John Ermine." Later, when Ermine and Wolf-Voice capture a wolf, we are to understand the imprisoned beast as presaging its captors' own doom.4 In Moonlight, Wolf as in many of Remington's late nocturnes, the night suggests the ghostly disappearance of the being we behold. Remington noted approvingly that a friend called another of his late nocturnes, A Scare in the Pack Train (1908, Sid
Richardson Collection of Western Art, Fort Worth, Texas), a "ghost painting.”5 London, among others, strove for the same ethereal nighttime effects: "Night came on, and a full moon rose high over the trees into the sky, lighting the land till it lay bathed in ghostly day.”6
Uncanny in its aspect, the figure of the wolf is also formally related to the surrounding scene. Its eyes match the two most prominent stars in the sky, its body is reflected in the water, the line of its back and head parallels the line of the distant sloping hill, its white-tipped tail assumes the colors and elongated form of the hill and sand, and, finally, its body is arranged in a more or less compact rectangle that echoes the rectangle of the picture itself. As a result, the painting can be said to confront us not simply with a wolf, but also with the wolflike menace of its own presence.7
Why would Remington see the picture as such a threat? For almost his whole career, he placed great and unselfconscious faith in the capacity of his paintings to document the past—-as though we were not looking at paintings at all but at the beings, the places, the events they represent. In his late works, however—and Moonlight, Wolf is an example—Remington became anxious about the capacity, or more precisely the incapacity, of paint to refer to anything but itself. Naturally, this anxiety is conveyed in the surfaces of the late nocturnes, so that what one critic praised as these pictures' "unwonted transparency" reads also as a tenacious opacity—an assertion of the paint as such.8 Less obviously, the anxiety is also conveyed in the subject matter. Look again at the wolf's hostile stare. On one level, its gaze might embody the anxiety of the artist before the painting itself—it might be understood as providing something like a mirror reflection of Remington's anger and frustration before a work in which he could not help but represent an artifice, a mere paintedness, disastrously at odds with his claims to documentation. More fundamentally, we might say that the wolf's glower suggests its own antipathy, insofar as Remington was able to imagine it, toward the artistic creator who had thus consigned it to the oblivion of a merely painted world.9
Alexander Nemerov, Addison Gallery of American Art: 65 Years, A Selective Catalogue (Andover, Massachusetts: Addison Gallery of American Art, 1996), pp. 454-55
1. Frederic Remington, "The Curse of the Wolves," Collier's Weekly, 27 January 1898, reprinted in The Collected Writings of Frederic Remington, eds. Peggy and Harold Samuels (Garden City, New York: Doubleday Books, 1979), p. 285.
2. Jack London, The Call of the Wild (1903; reprint, New York: Vintage Press, 1990), p. 77. Remington's copy of The Call of the Wild is in the Frederic Remington Art Museum in Ogdensburg, New York. Remington also owned a small tabletop bronze, attributed to Antoine-Louis Barye, of a lone wolf; this sculpture, which has certain affinities with the wolf in Moonlight, Wolf, is visible in photographs of the living room of the Ridgefield, Connecticut, house into which Remington moved in March 1909. The photographs and the sculpture itself are in the collection of the Remington Art Museum. For Roosevelt's views, see, for example, his essay, "The Strenuous Life," in Theodore Roosevelt, The Strenuous Lift: Essays and Addresses (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1906), pp. 3-22.
3. Jack London, The Sea-Wolf (1904; reprint, New York: Penguin Books, 1989), p. 76.
4. Frederic Remington, John Ermine of the Yellowstone (1902; reprint, New York: Gregg Press, 1968), pp. 88, 195-97. On the subject of a captured wolf (here a coyote) as a symbol of vanishing wilderness, see also Charles M. Russell, illustrated letter to Friend Trigg [Albert J. Trigg], 10 November 1903; in Charles M. Russell, Word Painter: Letters, 1887-1926, ed. Brian W. Dippie (Fort Worth, Texas: Amon Carter Museum, 1993), pp. 56-59.
5. Frederic Remington diary, 26 March 1908, Frederic Remington Art Museum, Ogdensburg, New York.
6. London, Call of the Wild, p. 83.
7. In its formal self-consciousness, Moonlight, Wolf is very different from a picture whose subject closely matches its own: Charles Russell's Lone Wolf (1900, C. M. Russell Museum, Great Falls, Montana).
8. Royal Cortissoz, "Frederic Remington: A Painter of American Life: Scribner's 47 (February 1910), p. 192.
9. For an extended account of this argument, one that relates Moonlight, Wolf to the style and subject of many of Remington's late nocturnes, see Alexander Nemerov, Frederic Remington and Turn-of the-Century America (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1995), pp. 183-224.
This object was included in the following exhibitions:
- Animals on Parade [The Addison Zoo] Addison Gallery of American Art , 00/00/00 - 00/00/00
- Twenty American Paintings Addison Gallery of American Art , 2/1/1956 - 2/28/1956
- What Do You Paint, Madam? Addison Gallery of American Art , 4/18/1956 - 6/11/1956
- Scope in Collecting [25th Anniversary Exhibition] Addison Gallery of American Art , 10/19/1956 - 12/24/1956
- 25th Anniversary Gifts Addison Gallery of American Art , 6/1/1957 - 6/30/1957
- Living with Design Addison Gallery of American Art , 10/22/1959 - 10/23/1959
- A Loan Exhibition Honoring Robert Churchill Vose on commencing his Sixty-fifth Y Vose Galleries of Boston , 3/7/1960 - 3/25/1961
- The Works Addison Gallery of American Art , 11/7/1969 - 2/22/1970
- Masterworks from the Collection: 50th Anniversary Exhibition Addison Gallery of American Art , 5/9/1981 - 6/14/1981
- Masterworks of American Art from the Addison Gallery Collection Hirschl and Adler Galleries, Inc. , 10/6/1981 - 10/31/1981
- Frederic Remington: The Masterworks The Saint Louis Art Museum , 3/11/1988 - 4/16/1989
- American Masterworks Addison Gallery of American Art , 10/5/1990 - 12/16/1990
- Point of View: Landscapes from the Addison Collection Addison Gallery of American Art , 10/16/1992 - 12/20/1992
- Wildlife Art in America James Ford Bell Museum of Natural History , 2/26/1994 - 5/15/1994
- Masterworks from the Permanent Collection Addison Gallery of American Art , 9/5/1995 - 12/17/1995
- Addison Gallery of American Art: 65 Years Addison Gallery of American Art , 4/13/1996 - 7/31/1996
- Framing America's Landscapes: Painting from the Addison Gallery of American Art Addison Gallery of American Art , 11/20/1998 - 7/31/1999
- Masterworks from the Permanent Collection Addison Gallery of American Art , 2/22/2000 - 3/26/2000
- Frederic Remington: The Color of Night National Gallery of Art , 4/6/2003 - 3/14/2004
- Art, Artists, and the Addison: Building a Collection Addison Gallery of American Art , 3/30/2004 - 7/31/2004
- Eye on the Collection: Copley to Hopper Addison Gallery of American Art , 12/21/2004 - 6/12/2005
- Eye on the Collection: West to Hopper Addison Gallery of American Art , 6/17/2005 - 10/16/2005
- Toward Abstraction Addison Gallery of American Art , 12/23/2005 - 3/26/2006
- Coming of Age: American Art, 1850s to 1950s American Federation of Arts , 9/9/2006 - 9/7/2009
- Mix and Match: A Conversation between Paintings and Works on Paper Addison Gallery of American Art , 1/23/2007 - 4/8/2007
- So Long, Farewell Addison Gallery of American Art , 4/7/2007 - 7/31/2007
- Inside, Outside, Upstairs, Downstairs: The Addison Anew Addison Gallery of American Art , 9/7/2010 - 3/27/2011
- Eye on the Collection Addison Gallery of American Art , 4/27/2013 - 7/31/2013
- Natural Selections Addison Gallery of American Art , 9/14/2013 - 3/16/2014
- [Permanent Collection 201-5] Addison Gallery of American Art , 4/12/2014 - 7/31/2014
- Exterior Spaces, Interior Places Addison Gallery of American Art , 9/2/2014 - 1/4/2015
- Night Vision: Nocturnes in American Art, 1850 -1960 Bowdoin College Museum of Art , 6/27/2015 - 10/18/2015
- Eye on the Collection Addison Gallery of American Art , 9/1/2016 - 3/19/2017
- Eye on the Collection Addison Gallery of American Art , 9/1/2017 - 7/31/2018
- A Wildness Distant from Ourselves: Art and Ecology in Nineteenth-Century America Addison Gallery of American Art , 9/1/2019 - 7/31/2020
- Natural Forces: Winslow Homer and Frederic Remington Denver Art Museum , 6/26/2020 - 2/28/2021
- Learning to Look: The Addison at 90 Addison Gallery of American Art , 5/8/2021 - 2/6/2022
- Regarding America: 19th Century Art from the Permanent Collection Addison Gallery of American Art , 4/23/2022 - 7/31/2022
This object has the following bibliographic references:
Sarah Boehme and Marian Wardle, Editors.
Branding the American West
University of Oklahoma Press.
Page Number: p. 94, Figure Number: Fig. 4.4
Frank Stella: A Retrospective
Yale University Press.
New Haven and London, 2015
Page Number: p. 3, Figure Number: fig. 3
- Night Vision—Nocturnes in American Art 1860-1960 . Bowdoin College Museum of Art. 6/2015
- Miguel Amat. artwork Knight Vision . Blaffer Art Museum, University of Houston. 2014
- Henry Saiz. Reality is for those who are not strong enough to confront their dreams . Natura Sonoris. 2013
- Peter H. Hassrick. Frederic Remington Catalogue Raisonne . University of Oklahoma Press. 2013-2014
- merchandise associated with Coming of Age exhibition . Dulwich Picture Gallery.
- Dr. Jane Thielemann. biography of Frederic Remington for middle school aged children . Hendrick-Long Publishing Company. 2008
- William Sharpe. NEW YORK NOCTURNE: The City After Dark in Literature, Painting, and Photography, . Princeton University Press. 2008
- Ellen Hardy. Non Sibi Calendar . Phillips Academy. 11/2006
- Marian Wardle. Branding the American West . University of Oklahoma Press. 2016
- The a Great Man in American Art’: Willa Cather’s Frederic Remington.” In Willa Cather at the Modernist Crux: Cather Studies 11. . University of Nebraska Press. 2016
- Barry Lopez. Of Wolves and Men . Open Road Media. 2016
- . Citadelles & Mazendo. 2018
- Day sale Catalogue 5 October 2018 . Christie's . United Kingdom, 2018
- Francais Horizons pluriels 1ere - 2019 - code 172053 . 2019
- Exhibition Merchandise for Natural Forces: Winslow Homer and Frederic Remington (March 15 - June 7, 2020), postcard, magnet, print . Denver Art Museum. 2020
- 4th Quarter 2019 Sales - Addison Gallery of American Art: ZANICHELLI EDITORE S.P.A. Revellino (NP 42058) . SCALA GROUP S.p.A..
This object is a member of the following portfolios:
Exhibitions: A Wildness Distant from Ourselves: Art and Ecology in Nineteenth-Century America
Exhibitions: Learning to Look: The Addison at 90
Exhibitions: Regarding America: 19th Century Art from the Permanent Collection
Themes: Flora and Fauna
Themes: MLC Portfolio: Representing the Land
Themes: MLC Portfolio: Visualizing Music
Themes: MLC Portfolio: Visualizing Poetry
Your current search criteria is: Portfolio is "Collection Highlights".