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Remick, Robert (1904‒1998)

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Cottonwood County Historical Society
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"Cowpoke," by Robert Remick

"Cowpoke," by Robert Remick. Used with permission of Cottonwood County Historical Society.

Visual artist Robert Remick spent decades creating masterpieces that grace public buildings, galleries, business places, and homes. As his fame grew throughout his career, so did his generosity. The Remick Gallery in the Cottonwood County Historical Society building, the Remick Ridge Estates for senior living, and the Robert and Helen Remick Charitable Foundation Trust are named in recognition of his philanthropy.

Born in Crookston, Minnesota, in 1904, Remick graduated from the high school in nearby Mentor and then moved to Omaha to work. He later attended college at Bemidji State before returning to Mentor to teach for a short time. He moved to Minneapolis in the late 1920s and graduated from the Minneapolis School of Art and Design (now the Minneapolis College of Art and Design) in 1932. “Drawing and painting were my overpowering interests,” he later observed. While living in Minneapolis, Remick worked in the window display department at Dayton’s. This gave him experience in commercial art, which he put to good use later.

Remick married Helen Hebbel, from Windom, on October 2, 1929, and lived in Minneapolis. The couple visited Windom together in 1936 and never went back to Minneapolis. For the next twenty-five years, Remick lived on the Hebbel farm near Windom, where he raised purebred Brown Swiss cattle. Farm work monopolized his time, and painting became a memory.

After working as a librarian in Minneapolis, Helen continued her career as a librarian in Windom. During the summers of 1959-1961, she attended the university in Boulder, Colorado to work on her master's degree, and encouraged Robert to take painting classes there. He followed her advice and studied with Clyfford Still and Kenzo Okada in different media, creating collages with paper, paint, fabric, and cardboard. He then decided to quit farming and focus on painting. By 1961, he was painting and creating collages full time. Eventually, boldly textured collages became his forte.

The Remicks traveled to Tucson every year for nineteen winters. A dealer at the Amersen Gallery there handled all of his paintings and arranged one-man and group shows for him. Robert’s style became recognizable for its bold designs and soft earthy tones. Robert and Helen also spent some time in Mexico at the James Punto Artist Colony at San Miguel Allende, where Robert was influenced by the post-Cubist expressionism of the 1960s. His work was primarily shown in Minnesota and Arizona, in addition to numerous private collections. As the volume of his work grew and became recognizable for its style, his acclaim grew as well.

Remick received the grand prize for original art at the 1967 Minnesota State Fair and collected dozens of other awards in Minnesota and Arizona. On May 14, 1994, he received the second Prairie Star Award given out by the Southwest Minnesota Arts and Humanities Council (SMAC) in Marshall. The award, given in alternate years, honors artists whose body of work best exemplifies the highest quality of art in the eighteen counties of the SMAC region.

As Remick’s fame grew, twenty local artists flocked to his studio for informal gatherings and inspiration. These budding artists eventually became the Windom Art Group, with a few of their members building substantial careers of their own.

During the last years of his life, Remick became well known in southwestern Minnesota not only for his art, but also for his philanthropy. Robert invested his financial resources in Windom and the surrounding southwest area. Before his death in 1998, he made a generous financial contribution to an art gallery now known as the Remick Gallery at the Cottonwood County Historical Society, and later willed his collection of art to it. He also helped to construct a retirement community in Windom known as Remick Ridge Estates.

Both Robert and Helen Remick believed in the benefits creativity brings to communities. As a result, they directed much of their support to art education, scholarship funds, historical organizations, environmental programs, performing arts groups, schools, and alternative instruction programs. Remick’s will established the Robert and Helen Remick Charitable Foundation Trust, which in 2000 began to contribute millions of dollars to charitable causes with an impact on southwestern Minnesota. Most of its beneficiaries live in Cottonwood County, Jackson County, and nearby areas.

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“The Art of Giving.” Southwest Minnesota Foundation Annual Report, 2001.

“Bob and Helen Remick: Planting Seeds for a New Way to Give.” Southwest Initiative Foundation.
https://swifoundation.org/remick-farm-story

Callison, Jill. “Windom Artist Paints Mysteriously.” Worthington Daily Globe, February 22, 1990.

Kaye, Janelle. Robert Remick: His Life, His Art, His Legacy. Waseca: Dufault Publishing, 2019.

Crump, Robert L. Minnesota Prints and Printmakers, 1900‒1945. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 2009.

Fodnes, Mavis. “90-Year-Old Windom Artist Recognized for His Style.” Worthington Daily Globe, May 16, 1994.

Larson, Rahn. “Windom Man Gives $200,000 to Sogge Project.” Cottonwood County Citizen, July 26, 1995.

Meissner, Susan. “Windom Bids Farewell to Robert Remick.” Cottonwood County Citizen, July 15, 1998.

“Remick Gallery Opens.” Cottonwood County Historical Society Newsletter (Spring 1999).

“Robert Remick Contributes Entire Collection and Dollars to Cottonwood County Historical Society.” Southwest Minnesota Art and Humanities Council [newsletter], [1998?].

Rickers, Beth. “Art Center Show Reflects on 60 Years of Remick’s Artwork.” Worthington Daily Globe, May 30, 1991.

“Windom Lays Claim to Accomplished Artist; to Display Work at Art Show.” Cottonwood County Citizen, May 2, 1962.

Related Images

"Cowpoke," by Robert Remick
"Cowpoke," by Robert Remick
Robert and Helen Remick
Robert and Helen Remick
"Equinox," collage by Robert Remick.
"Equinox," collage by Robert Remick.
"Collage" by Robert Remick
"Collage" by Robert Remick
"Sunflowers" by Robert Remick
"Sunflowers" by Robert Remick
"The Wheel," Robert Remick
"The Wheel," Robert Remick
"Under Lights, 37," Robert Remick
"Under Lights, 37," Robert Remick

Turning Point

In 1961, Remick becomes a full-time artist.

Chronology

1904

Robert Remick is born in Crookston.

1928

Remick enrolls in the Minneapolis School of Art and Design.

1932

Remick marries Helen Hebbel from Windom.

ca. 1930s

Dayton’s Department store hires Remick to paint window displays.

1936

Remick and Helen move to Windom, where he farms for a living.1961 – Remick quits farming and becomes a full-time artist.

1967

The Minnesota State Fair awards Remick a grand prize for original art.

1994

Remick receives the second McKnight Prairie Star Award given out by the Southwest Minnesota Arts and Humanities Council in Marshall.

1998

Remick dies, leaving a generous legacy in Windom and throughout southwestern Minnesota.