In a Different Light: Winslow Homer and Frederic Remington

In March 2020, the Sid Richardson Museum will open In a Different Light: Winslow Homer and Frederic Remington. The exhibition will offer a reexamination of Remington alongside Homer, two giants in American art.

Winslow Homer (1836-1910) was one of the most celebrated American painters of the 19th century. Likewise, Frederic Remington (1861-1909) is considered to be one of the greatest artists of the American West. Though born a generation apart, Homer and Remington were both at the height of their careers in the 1880s and 90s.

Winslow Homer (1836-1910) | Two Figures by the Sea | 1882 | Oil on canvas | Denver Art Museum | 1935.8

The installation at The Sid is centered on the loan of Homer’s 1882 painting, Two Figures by the Sea, from the Denver Art Museum. This important painting, made at the end of his time in Cullercoats, England in the early 1880s, marks a major turning point in Homer’s career and his turn to major seaside subjects. The painting will be accompanied by a group of works on paper by Homer on loan from the Amon Carter Museum and McNay Art Museum that will change out over the course of the installation.

A larger exhibition of the works of Winslow Homer and Frederic Remington will be touring the country from March 2020 through January 2021. The exhibition begins at the Denver Art Museum, Denver Colorado, in March, and then travels to the Portland Museum of Art, Portland, Maine, in July and concluding at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art beginning in October. 

Frederic Remington
Winslow Homer

Art historians have found many parallels between the two artists in both their art and careers.

Both Homer and Remington worked in New York. The two artists shared the same dealer (Knoedler & Co.) and a similar type of buyer (industrialist business men). Both artists made their start as illustrators working for the popular magazines of the period (Harper’s Weekly, Scribner’s Monthly, etc), particularly as war correspondents (Homer with the Civil War; Remington with the Indians Wars in the Southwest and Spanish American War in Cuba). Neither man wanted to be considered an illustrator but rather as a fine artist, though it’s their early careers as an illustrator that was essential to their success.

Stereoscopic photograph of the Knoedler gallery interior, c. 1860–1880. By Unknown – This image is available from the New York Public Library’s Digital Library under the digital ID G91F205_006F: →, Public Domain

Homer and Remington were both largely self-taught artists. Likewise, both excelled in other mediums other than oil; Homer with watercolor and printmaking, and Remington with bronze sculpture. Comparison of their works reveals their use of generic character types set against the dangers of the natural world. And most importantly for viewers, both artists knew how to distill a narrative to its essential elements.

Where the two men differ is largely in their subject matter. Homer found inspiration in the seaside life of the East coast. Remington, on the other hand, found inspiration in the landscapes of the American West and the people who occupied that space. Join us for In a Different Light: Winslow Homer and Frederic Remington as we explore the perils of the sea alongside the dangers of the western plains in the works of these two giants of 19th-century American art.

Frederic Remington, The Luckless Hunter, 1909, Oil on canvas, 26 7/8 x 28 7/8 inches

The Lucky Wildcatter

The Lucas gusher at Spindletop, January 10, 1901, Original photo by John Trost

On January 10, 1901, Spindletop, the famous oil field in Beaumont, Texas, “gushered” in an era of transformation for the state of Texas. The development of oil in Texas helped transform its once rural economy to one spearheaded by the petroleum industry and, likewise, steered its population from rural to urban. In 1900, only 17% of Texans lived in urban centers while 83% of the state’s population was rural. Flash forward to a little over a hundred years later in 2010, when we see those numbers flipped – 83% urban vs. 17% rural.

Although Spindletop was a pivotal moment in Texas history, it was not the first discovery of oil in the Lone Star State. Historians recount how American Indians in Texas first told European explorers about oil, believing the substance to have medicinal uses. In July 1543, Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto’s expedition, led by Luis de Moscoso Alvarado, found themselves on the Texas coast between Sabine Pass and High Island. Moscoso reported that the group found oil floating on the surface of the water and used it to caulk their boats. Later, Lyne T. Barret drilled Texas’ first producing oil well in 1866 at Melrose in Nacogdoches County. Other wells followed, making Nacogdoches County the site of Texas’ first commercial oil field, first pipeline and first effort to refine crude.[i]

Despite not being the first oil well, Spindletop set off the oil boom in Texas, resulting in an influx of wildcatters. A wildcatter is someone who drills wells in areas not known to be oil fields. Wildcatters were essentially gamblers, taking a lot of risk in hopes to strike it big. Sid Richardson was an early – and eventually very lucky – wildcatter.

Sid Richardson learned the oil business from the ground up, beginning his boom-and-bust career in 1911 hauling pipe and working on an oil well platform near Wichita Falls, Texas, followed by short stints as an oil scout in Louisiana and Texas. As an independent trader in leases, and independent oil promoter and operator, he won and lost two sizeable fortunes in setbacks in 1921 and 1930.

Esther Bubley | Keystone Field, Derricks and Sand Dunes | November 1945 | B/W photograph

When oil prices improved in 1933, Sid began wildcatting in West Texas. With $40 borrowed from his sister Annie, he began a “poorboy” operation—buying some materials on credit, borrowing others, wrangling leases, and arranging with workers to take small pay in cash and more in oil. H.A. “Red” Coulter, a driller who worked for Sid, reminisced about those early days in the Winkler County News in Kermit, Texas, “During the Depression, Sid brought the country out with nothing but nerve. Times were hard . . . the price of oil was so low, Sid had trouble getting enough money to meet his payroll . . . . and Christmas of 1933 was approaching . . . . Our grocer in Wink had cut off our supply. We appealed to Sid and he said that he had credit in Fort Worth and would send out a truckload of groceries . . . . It was the biggest Christmas any of us had ever experienced . . . even though none of us could even buy a postage stamp.”

Winkler County, TX in red

After drilling two dry holes in Winkler County, Richardson struck oil on the third attempt. With the income, he invested in leases in the Keystone field of Winkler County and the Estes of Ward County. By 1935, Sid and his nephew, Perry R. Bass had become partners. Their big strike—one of the biggest in West Texas—came a few years later. Of the 385 wells they drilled, only 17 were dry. By the end of 1940, Richardson had 33 producing wells in the Keystone field, 7 in the Slaughter field, 38 in the South Ward field, and 47 in the Scarborough field.

Peter Hurd, Portrait of Sid Richardson, 1958, Oil on panel, 32 x 48 inches

Years later, reflecting on his success, Sid downplayed it all with his characteristic humor and modesty, “Luck helped me, too, every day of my life. And I’d rather be lucky than smart, ‘cause a lot of smart people ain’t eating’ regular.”

[i] Mary G. Ramos, editor emerita, for the Texas Almanac 2000–2001,

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

In 1948, A&M College of Texas (now A&M University), established the “Opportunity Award.” The scholarship intended to aid “worthy young men of Texas” who were unable to afford college without financial assistance. Sid Richardson contributed regularly to the fund for several years. Although he was a wealthy business man, Sid came from a humble background much like the young men the scholarship award supported. “I had it sort of rough when I was young, and I’d like to do something for underprivileged kids.”

Jesse “Jack” Mercer Couch , 1951

Many of the recipients of the scholarship fund wrote Sid letters of appreciation, including the letter on display in our current exhibition from Jesse “Jack” Mercer Couch, who graduated from A&M in 1955 with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture. Although Jack struggled at times academically, as even he admits “chemistry is giving me a headache,” his program director still had faith in the young student’s future. An orphan since he was two years old, Jack had dreams to one day own “a piece of ground where I place some cows and some pigs on rolling green pastures; a place with a shiny white house and a red barn and everything that will make a happy farm life.”

“Dear Mr. Richardson,

     I have been informed that you are the source of my opportunity scholarship.  I want you to know that I am deeply indebted to you.  Mr. McQuillen told me that you would be interested in knowing something about me and my standing here at college

My dream and plans are a piece of ground where I place some cows and some pigs on rolling green pastures; a place with a shiny white house and a red barn and everything that will make a happy farm life.  I want to be a service to my country and a good citizen, and I want to be independent to a certain degree.  But I must think of the present and prepare myself.  My curricula is agricultural education which will prepare me to teach vocational agriculture in high school.  I would like to take post graduate work for a master’s degree when the time comes.

The mid-semester grade report showed that I posted18 semester hours and 31 grade points.  Chemistry is giving me a headache.  By the end of the semester I hope to raise my grades.

     I like A. and M. College, R.O.T.C., and all that goes with it, though I am constantly reminded that the feminine influence is lacking.

     If you are not kept too busy I would enjoy hearing from you.

Your friend,

                                         Jack Couch”

Later, in 1965, the Sid Richardson Foundation established the Sid Richardson Memorial Scholarship Fund. The fund provides scholarships for college and graduate education and post-secondary vocational training for children and grandchildren of eligible retirees and employees of businesses previously owned and operated by Sid Richardson and designated successor companies and organizations. Over $10 million in scholarship funds have been awarded since 1965!