The Wounded Bunkie

A cavalryman attempts to help his wounded bunkmate to safety. The bullet hole visible in the “bunkie’s” chest and the animal skull lying on the ground suggest an unhappy ending to the story. Remington’s paintings, sculptures, magazine illustrations, and writings addressed the American public’s fascination with life on the Western frontier. This sculpture pays tribute to the camaraderie found among soldiers, even in the face of adversity.

Frederic Remington, born in upstate New York and educated at Yale University, was almost singlehandedly responsible for creating the view of the American West that was accepted by the public in the late nineteenth century. After his first trip west in 1881, he depicted primarily scenes of cowboys, Indians, and cavalrymen in his paintings and sculpture. These subjects appealed to both the growing fascination with frontier life and the desire for American themes.

The Wounded Bunkie, which became extremely popular, was Remington’s second attempt at modeling. Typical of his work, it focuses on a moment of drama and danger. Two mounted cavalrymen are galloping away from a battle. One has been shot; the other attempts to support him until they reach safety. The word bunkie was cavalry slang for “bunk mate,” which denoted a particularly close comradeship in which men felt responsible for one another. Cavalrymen often braved great danger to save a bunkie’s life.

An edition of fourteen statues in bronze of The Wounded Bunkie was sand-cast by the Henry Bonnard Bronze Company in New York. The sequence was identified by letters instead of the usual numbers. Thus, the sculpture in the Clark collection, which was the fourth one made, bears the letter D. Small objects, such as guns, stirrups, and canteens, were cast separately and attached. The sculpture was praised for the naturalistic modeling of the animals and the accuracy of the details. The design is technically quite radical for this period in American sculpture: Remington was very much interested in the way animals moved, and, by supporting the entire group on two of the horses’ legs, he convincingly created a dynamic scene that emphasizes forward motion.

Robert Sterling Clark, a career soldier and horse breeder, was extremely impressed with Remington sculpture that he saw at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. In 1946, the year after he acquired Remington’s painting Dismounted: The Fourth Trooper Moving the Led Horses, he purchased The Wounded Bunkie. Five years later, in 1951, he bought a third Remington, the painting entitled Friends or Foes? (The Scout).

—Jennifer Gordon Lovett, excerpted from The Art and Craft of Nineteenth-Century Sculpture, Jennifer Gordon Lovett et al. (Williamstown, Mass.: Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, 1994).

Provenance

Arthur Curtis James, New York; to (Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, sale of the James collection, November 13–15, 1941, no. 184); to (Milch Gallery, New York); to (M. Knoedler & Co., New York, September 30, 1946); to Robert Sterling Clark, October 21, 1946.

Frederic Remington

American, 1861–1909

The Wounded Bunkie

1896

Bronze

20 1/4 x 34 5/8 x 13 1/8 in. (51.4 x 87.9 x 33.3 cm)


Acquired by Sterling and Francine Clark, 1946

1955.13


ON VIEW

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Conrads, Margaret C. American Paintings and Sculpture at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. New York: Hudson Hills Press, 1990.