University Museums

Title: The Bronco Buster
Name: Sculpture
Date: Copyright 1895
Medium: Bronze
Dimensions: 23 1/4 × 16 1/4 × 6 3/4 in. diameter (59.1 × 41.3 × 17.1 cm)
Marks: It is signed on the right hand front of the base. The cast number, 24/75 is beside it. No bronze foundry mark is on it. No copyright date either.
Classification: Sculpture
Credit Line: Gift of Mary & Arloe Paul in memory of Francis W. Paul
Location: Iowa State University, Farm House Museum
Object Number: um86.586ab
More Information
The Broncho Buster is a sculpture created by Frederic Remington. The copyright is from 1895 but there’s an interesting timeline for this work of sculpture. The sculpture is cast bronze from one of the originals that Remington created. Depicted is a rough and tough gentleman atop a bucking horse. Every inch of this sculpture screams rugged, from the detail to the action depicted. Look at how much detail Remington put into the muscles and mane of the horse and also the clothing and facial features of the cowboy. Remington said of The Broncho Buster, “Only those who have ridden a bronco the first time it was saddled, or have lived through a railroad accident, can form any conception of the solemnity of such experiences. Few Eastern people appreciate the sky-rocket bounds, grunts, and stiff-legged striking.” This rich detail is something you can see in all of Remington’s artwork, whether painting or sculpture.

From the copyright date of 1895 to about 1918, there were a few different waves of copies being made of The Broncho Buster. Overall, about 160 were made while Remington was alive so those would be the most authentic and would’ve had his approval before being sold. After his death in 1909, about 300 more were made that didn’t have his touch on them and there are some differences in the quality with this batch.

Around the turn of the century, there was a shift in the view of the American West which is when we see the lone ranger and gunfights in the middle of towns show up in pop culture. Before that, people were pretty realistic about what was actually happening in the West. The only way for the typical family to survive on the frontier was by building a community. You needed neighbors (even if they were a few miles away) to make it very long in the rough environment. Eventually, people – especially on the East coast – heard stories about the few who did venture out into the unknown like fur traders and mountain men and that’s where the image of the lone wanderer came in.

Remington held an interesting place in this transition. Originally an East coaster himself, Remington moved around the West (Illinois, Montana, Kansas, Missouri), striking out on his own before moving back east to Brooklyn, NY to attend art school. He found that interest in the dying West was coming back which led his art to sell widely. Remington’s style was very naturalistic and always focused on the people and animals of the West. This was in contrast to other famous artists who depicted the vast, empty landscape in their works. Remington’s style became very popular with his art showing up in Harper’s Weekly and he was contracted to head Westward to produce more. Remington also wrote quite a bit and along with Owen Wister, wrote “The Evolution of the Cowpuncher,” in 1893. This novel was one of the first descriptions of the mythical cowboy in American literature and came before Frederick Jackson Turner’s frontier thesis.