I am in Chippewa Bay 10 miles below Alexandria Bay. Seven miles wide here and blows like hell every minute. Got a dandy lumbered island - 6 acres - good house - kitchen outside - boat house - two docks and a hospital tent. It's cool here all the while and I work summers...It is cheaper than travel and anyhow summer is no time to spend on cars." F. Remington
Famous artist Frederic Remington penned this letter to a friend in 1900 just after purchasing this island he named Ingleneuk. Best known for his depictions of the Old West in paintings and bronze sculptures of cowboys, soldiers and Native Americans, Remington made this magnificent stretch of the St. Lawrence the tranquil subject of impressionist landscapes in his later work.
His career took off in the mid-1880s when he began sketching western illustrations for Harper's Weekly and other New York magazines. Many people assume he was a westerner, if not a cowboy. But Remington was an Easterner who grew up in the small town of Canton New York fascinated by the Western frontier as a young boy.
The son of a Civil War colonel, he traveled to Montana at 19 and later moved to Kansas where he had failed business ventures as a saloon owner and sheep rancher.
The budding artist returned to New York to become an illustrator and magazine correspondent capturing the last quarter of the 19th century of the Old American West in sketches that appeared in Harper's Weekly, Harpers Monthly, Colliers and many other widely-read magazines of the time.
Remington is perhaps best known for creating “cowboy” sculpture with his inaugural piece in The Broncho Buster in 1895. The Frederic Remington Art Museum in Ogdensburg has undertaken a new project, reproducing The Broncho Buster in a limited edition of 50 now available and being sold for $8,000 each. The first steps of the process employed a technology undreamt of in Remington’s day: A 3D laser scanner captured every minute detail of The Broncho Buster casting #23, in the Frederic Remington Art Museum collection. The scanning data was then employed to create a positive copy in resin. Molds were then made from this hyper accurate model. The casts are made using the lost wax bronze casting method in a manner similar to Remington’s day.
"We consider the completed castings to be without question the finest reproductions of The Broncho Buster ever created" said curator Laura Foster. Each cast is numbered and marked.
Chippewa Bay became the subject of Remington's later work . He did oil paintings of his studio, the boat house, his caretaker's shanty and Singer Castle after it was completed in 1904.
Remington was married to wife Eva and lived in New Rochelle New York when he bought his summer retreat at the height of the Gilded Age in the Thousand Islands. He watched neighbour Frederick Bourne build his 28-room Singer Castle on nearby Dark Island while another New York City business baron, George C. Boldt was busy constructing Boldt Castle near Alexandria Bay on Heart Island.
Ingleneuk was no castle. It included a house and Remington's modest green art studio. The house fell to fire in later years but the studio , now a cottage, still stands.
Remington was passionate about his summers at Ingleneuk, where he came to relax, canoe and sketch the scenery. He was a man of big appetites. He overindulged in food, drink and cigars but was a robust outdoorsman. "Oh, I am itching to get up on that island," he wrote in early spring of 1907. "I look forward to it like a school boy." Yet he expressed frustration at what he perceived to be a lack of enthusiasm for his lush landscapes of the Thousand Islands. "Got me pigeon-holed in their minds, you see: want horses, cowboys, out West things," he told friend Edwin Wildman in 1902. "Won't believe me if I paint anything else."
Today his works are auctioned for millions of dollars and are also displayed in a comprehensive collection of sketches, paintings and sculpture, diaries and other personal effects at the Frederic Remington Art Museum in Ogdensburg.
Remington wrote two novels based on the Wild West but decided to quit writing and illustration and after drawing over 2700 illustrations to focus on sculpture and painting. He created 22 different subjects in bronze.
He found solace at his Chippewa Bay retreat. Remington's machismo was no match for a Thousand Islands sunset as he confessed to an interviewer: "Seems as if I must paint them - seems as if they'd never be so beautiful again." But he doubted his work. "The trouble with my landscapes is they are merely pretty," he said.
Yet just days after describing Ingleneuk in his diary on May 31 1908 as a "Temple of Rest" and a "Hoboe's Dream," Remington put the island up for sale to build a new home in Ridgefield Connecticut.
He died at 48 the following year after he had an emergency appendectomy. He is buried in Evergreen Cemetery, Canton, New York. He and Eva had no children. After his death, Eva moved into the house as a guest of Remington's friend George Hall in 1915 and lived there with her sister. She died in 1918. Her estate became the Remington Art Memorial in 1923. Since then, the collection has expanded through purchases and donations, and it is now called the Frederic Remington Art Museum.
The museum also features Remington's later-in-life landscape paintings of Ingleneuk, where an artist world famous for capturing the wars of the Old West found peace at his home on this island for some of the last summers of his life.
"I want to get out on those rocks by my studio in a bath robe in the early morning when the birds are singing and the sun is shining and hop in among the bass," he wrote less than two years before he passed away. "When I die, my Heaven is going to be something like that."
By Kim Lunman, email@example.com
Kim Lunman is the owner and publisher of Island Life Magazine(http://www.islandlifemag.ca) based in Brockville, Ontario. Kim's 2012 magazine was distributed in May in local newspapers in eastern Ontario and northern New York. A special Islander Edition is on sale in local book stores in both the United States and Canada. Each summer Kim visits many islands and meets their owners so we can all look forward to reading their stories in the coming months. This story first appeared in Island Life Magazine 2012 edition.