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 Carl Clemens Moritz Rungius  (1869 - 1959)



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Lived/Active: New York/Wyoming / Canada      Known for: wildlife and landscape painting, illustration, etching

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born near Berlin, Germany, Carl Rungius became one of America's most noted wildlife artists, usually working in plein air or directly from nature.  His grandfather was a taxidermist and animal hunter, which gave him early exposure to this subject matter.  He was also a hunter of big game from childhood, and eventually his lifestyle merged with his art.

He studied art in Berlin at the Berlin School of Art, the Academy of Fine Arts, and the School of Applied Arts, and one of his teachers was Paul Meyerheim.  His career as a painter began in Berlin in 1889, and much of his early work was in the style of German Romanticism and Realism.

He arrived in the United States from his native Rixdorf in 1894, and settled in New York City.  He did illustrations for popular magazines, but by 1904 was focused on fine art, and by 1913, was elected an Associate Member of the National Academy of Design.  He became a full member in 1920.

He fell in love with the Northwest and West, and much of his painting and hunting career of over fifty years was spent packing into the forests and high country of Montana, Wyoming, Arizona, the Yukon, and Canadian Rockies.  His specialty was big game such as mountain goats, sheep, deer, and antelope in dramatic landscape settings.

In 1895, he took his first trip West, heading to Wyoming and Yellowstone.  He spent nearly four months on a ranch in northwest Wyoming where "he gained the first true inspirations for his life's work of depicting western life and animals". (Hassrick 124). He was a big-game hunter, and then did paintings from the trophies.  In late September of that same trip, Rungius visited Yellowstone Park from where he apparently did sketches but no extant paintings from those sketches resulted when he returned to his studio in Brooklyn, New York in November.  It is thought that the reason he did no Yellowstone paintings was because no rifles were allowed in the Park.

However, from memory he did other paintings in Academic style with heavy, rich color and tight detailing--much in contrast to the prevailing impressionism.  Rungius returned to Wyoming many times in the future, but this first trip was the turning point in his career in that it directed his focus to painting wildlife.

Ultimately it was the Canadian Rockies that held him, and, living in New York most of the year, he built a summer studio home, "The Paintbox" in Banff, Alberta in 1922, and Theodore Roosevelt became a great admirer and collector of his work. After the artist's death in 1959, the Glenbow Foundation maintained his studio as a museum.

During these extensive travels, he also became friends with many frontier people and did a series of oil paintings depicting their life. These works, of which there were not many completed, are much sought after for their accuracy and sense of spontaneity.

The artist died in New York City.

Edan Hughes, Artists in California, 1786-1940
Peter Hassrick, Drawn to Yellowstone
Harold and Peggy Samuels, Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West

Biography from Altermann Galleries and Auctioneers, V:
Carl Rungius is considered by many art historians to be the greatest wildlife painter of the western wilderness because of his ability to study the animals and landscape so closely and to paint them with skill and understanding.

His father and grandfather were amateur naturalists in their native Germany, and Rungius studied wildlife painting at the Berlin Academy.  In 1894, he received an invitation from relatives to come to America for a moose-hunting expedition in Maine.  He stayed afterwards, settling in New York, and developed a career for the next ten years as a wildlife illustrator for a variety of outdoor magazine.

In 1895, he journeyed to the Rocky Mountains to a ranch at the foot of the Wind River chain in Wyoming.  He hunted and sketched profusely for five months, traveling as far as Jackson Hole and the Yellowstone country.  Returning to New York, he adorned his studio with his trophies and determined to stay in America.

Rungius returned to Wyoming in successive years, and in 1904 accompanied a scientific expedition into Canada's Yukon Territory where he studied high mountain sheep.  Back in New York, he became a popular and well-respected artist, and regularly exhibited his work to high acclaim.  "There is not likely to be another fellow who will have the opportunity to study big game as you are doing," Frederic Remington wrote him admiringly, "and I think records of us fellows who are doing the 'Old America' which is so fast passing will have an audience in posterity."

In 1910, responding to another invitation, Rungius visited the Canadian Rockies near Banff, Alberta, and immediately fell in love with the region.  He built a studio there in 1921, naming it "The Paintbox," and returned to work nearly every summer until his death.  Bighorn sheep, which he thought "our finest game animal," became his favorite quarry in these mountains.

Rungius was an acknowledged master of wilderness painting and an active member of several wildlife and conservation organizations.  He generally favored a dramatic mountain setting for his landscapes, where steep and craggy slopes would fall away to misty depth, and high, sharp peaks loom against deep blue skies.  Here the assured brushstrokes of the foreground rocks suggest the richness of the plant life that clings to them; the yellow, reds, and green seem invigorated by the sharp sunlight.  This was the splendor that Carl Rungius immortalized in paint.

Sources include: The American West: Legendary Artists of the Frontier, Dr. Rick Stewart, Hawthorne Publishing Company, 1986

Biography from Braarud Fine Art:
Born in Berlin, Germany in 1869, Carl Rungius took a serious interest in drawing, the outdoors, and animals at an early age.  He would become one of North America's most accomplished painters of mountains and wildlife.

Rungius was trained at the Berlin Art School and at the Academy of Fine Arts and the School of Applied Arts in Berlin.  Invited by a Brooklyn, New York uncle to take a hunting trip to Maine in 1894, he got his first look at America and stayed on to spend the following summer hunting in Wyoming.  After a brief return to Germany, where he realized that his enthusiasm for the wilder landscape and more plentiful game in America was too powerful an attraction to ignore, he returned to settle on Long Island, New York in 1897.

The artist maintained a studio there to 1910, though he spent his summers hunting and drawing, primarily in New Brunswick and Wyoming. One summer, 1904, was spent in the Yukon with Charles Sheldon.

In 1910 Rungius moved his studio into New York City, interacting extensively for the first time with well-known artists of the day. He also made his first visit to Alberta that year, where for the first time he saw the dramatic landscape as a sufficient subject in itself, rather than just as a setting for animals.  He returned annually to Alberta, and he and his wife built a studio in Banff in 1921.  He would live and paint in Banff every summer thereafter until 1958.

Rungius' paintings are bold and vigorous, both in color and brushstroke. His oils, from smallest sketches to largest compositions, employ expressive, usually thick paint applied with decisive verve.  He captures the power and monumentality of the Rockies as much through the character of his paint as through specific topography.  The same expressive handling makes his animals one with both the landscape depicted and the compositions in which they are placed.

Biography from The Coeur d'Alene Art Auction:
Carl Rungius came to the United States from Germany in 1894 to hunt big game in Maine.  After his arrival in this country, he established his winter quarters in New York City, and a summer home and studio in Banff, Alberta, Canada.

An outdoorsman completely in love with nature, he frequently stayed away from both homes for weeks at a time, while he hunted through the untamed regions of Wyoming, the Yukon and the Canadian Rockies.  For over fifty years he stalked moose, caribou and the ferocious grizzly bear; he also sought the smaller animals such as mountain sheep, goat, elk, deer and antalope.

Rungius was a great naturalist, a fine draftsman and an anatomist with thorough knowledge of musculature and bone structure.  In many of his paintings he achieved the feeling of rotating movement so common to animals in a herd.  His sense of color was also well developed and he used it boldly or with much sublety, as the particular situation seemed to merit.

Rungius received many honors and prizes and was elected Associate of the National Academy in 1913 and National Academician in 1920.  One of his admirers was Theodore Roosevelt, who was also a personal friend.  Roosevelt owned a moose done in bronze by Rungius and several of his paintings. Considering the purchase of one, Roosevelt said, "This is the most spirited animal painting I have ever seen. I'll take it."

Some of Rungius' Western paintings are in the Beach Memorial at the Shelburne Museum, Shelburne, Vt. and the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Biography from Thomas Nygard Gallery:
Carl Rungius was born in Berlin, Germany and was educated at the gymnasium Burg bef Magdeburg und Glessen.  He studied art at the Berlin Art School, the School of Applied Arts, and at the Academy of Fine Arts as the pupil of Paul Meyerheim.  He began his art career in Germany, painting in Berlin until the age of twenty-five when he emigrated to the United Sates.

After arriving in America, he established his first studio in New York City and built a summer home and studio in Banff, Alberta.  He made his first real sketching trip to Wyoming and Yellowstone Park in 1895.  This trip made a real mark on him and he began to travel extensively after that time.

Rungius traveled from Arizona to Alaska, hunting, sketching and painting, making his specialty Western big game animals.  Some favorites were moose, caribou, and bear, as well as mountain sheep, goats, elk, deer and antelope.  He also painted the cowboys he met along the way but left the Indians and Pueblos to other artists of the West.

His work today is a valuable record of the animals and their environment at that particular place and time.  He painted directly from nature and captured the very essence of his subject matter.  The Glenbow Foundation in Calgary, Alberta maintains his Rockies' studio as a museum and as a tribute to the work of this fine artist.  The National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson, Wyoming serves as the greatest depository outside of Canada of his works.

Biography from The Caldwell Gallery :
Carl Rungius studied art intensely in Berlin at three different academies before immigrating to the U.S. in 1894 and established a studio in NYC that year.  Rungius was a visual historian and naturalist with a vast knowledge of anatomy with a distinct composition and color sense.  His specialty became Western American big game subjects, favoring grizzly bears, moose and caribou, occasionally depicting cowboys as well.

Rungius took his first sketching trip out to Wyoming and the Yellowstone National Park in 1895.  He spent most of his time outdoors, painting directly from nature for the next 50 years, traveling from Arizona to Alaska.

Rungius' work represents valuable records of the natural history of that region.  The Glenbow Foundation has preserved Rungius' studio in the Rocky Mountains as a museum. Teddy Roosevelt purchased many of his outdoor paintings.

Biography from William A. Karges Fine Art - Beverly Hills:
Carl Rungius was born in near Berlin, Germany, in 1869, where he studied at the Berlin School of Fine Arts, Academy of Fine Art, and the School of Applied Arts.  He immigrated to New York in 1894, and spent 10 years contributing commercial work to magazines, before devoting himself to fine art.

Like his grandfather, Rungius was an avid hunter, and spent prolonged periods in the
Pacific Northwest, eventually building a studio in Alberta, Canada.  His paintings of big game, painted en plein air, were prized for their accuracy and highly collected.  Among his many collectors was Theodore Roosevelt.

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Carl Rungius is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Notable Alaska
San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exhibition 1915
Western Painters

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