Small Oaks by Frederic Remington

Name: Small Oaks | Artist: Frederic Remington Media: Oil on canvas | Year(s): 1887
Frederic Remington | Small Oaks | 1887 | Oil on canvas | Frederic Remington Art Museum, Ogdensburg, NY

About the Work

Throughout his life, Frederic Remington loved "packing and paddling" in the North Country—the woodland region extending from the northern Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York westward across the St. Lawrence River into Canada.

Here he records a campsite from the summer of 1887, on Small Oaks Island in the St. Lawrence's Chippewa Bay. In a letter to his friend Lt. Powhatan Clarke, Remington includes an ink sketch, which he calls "a rough draft of our present quarters," that ultimately served as the source for this painting. Remington also clearly expresses his fondness for the outdoors, writing: "a friend of mine owns the Island and has a small cottage but we 'are in camp'-camp is the only thing in summer-if I had money enough I would live in a bark camp the year round..."

The picture's immediate slice-of-life quality, painterly brushwork, and play of light on the tent, rocks, and ground bring to mind French Impressionist painting, which only recently had begun being exhibited in the United States. By including the small detail of the open, rear tent flaps, Remington not only adds to the authenticity of the depiction, but also expands the landscape in which the camp is set. The tranquility evoked by the scene belies Remington's description written to his friend: "trying to catch muskalongue [a large freshwater fish]-eating more than is good for me-rowing getting up a muscle and in the evening I fight mosquitoes-." All in all, Remington reported he was having a good time, and this experience on Small Oaks may have planted the seed that led to his 1900 purchase of his own Chippewa Bay island, Ingleneuk.