Sunday, May 6, 2012


Carl Rangius, 1920 - 1925
Taken in Banff, Alberta, Canada
Source Glenbow museum archives

A native of Germany, Carl Clemens Moritz Rungius (pronounced Run-gus) studied at several art academies, where he found himself drawn to the work of European animal artists who combined an impressionistic painting style with the European sporting art tradition. To many Europeans of the late 19th century, America represented a land of plenty with boundless opportunities for hunting, an image fueled by popular "Wild West" novels.
In 1895 Rungius leapt at the chance to visit an uncle in the United States, and he immigrated to the United States a year later. From his base in New York, he made frequent hunting and sketching trips to Maine and New Brunswick - and eventually extended his forays to the Rocky Mountain region. He quickly became enamored of the landscape of the American West and its animal life.
Rungius maintained a New York studio and established a summer studio in Banff in 1922. Active in the first half of the 20th century, Rungius is important today because he was an innovator - the first career wildlife artist in America. An avid sportsman, he spent time in the wilderness to enhance his knowledge of animals and environments. His paintings combine both landscapes and wildlife, and they represent an idyllic world where the human imprint on the landscape is invisible. Rungius places his mammals in loosely sketched settings of open vistas and bright skies that reflect his hunting and painting trips to Wyoming, Alaska, and the Canadian Rockies.
In tracing Rungius's legacy, it is useful to examine the similarities other artists share with him. Rungius painted both landscapes and wildlife, and situated the animals in their natural environment. At the time, this technique was new to painting in North America. His consistent use of field studies - both colour and compositional sketches - enhanced his ability to translate colour and atmosphere into his finished studio work, thus creating a seductive vista or image in which the animal seemed "to belong." Artists such as Tucker Smith and Douglas Allen follow this technique - the use of colour is a consistent strategy in their painting. Stylistically, Bob Kuhn, Ken Carlson, Robert Lougheed, and John Schoenherr echo Rungius's impressionistic painting approach while using similar techniques that convey a strong sense of movement. These artists are not copiers of Rungius's methods - they view his work as something that has opened the door to artistic possibilities in the wildlife art genre.
(Kirstin Evenden at

Herd of Antelope

Humpback Grizzly

On the Trail

Grizzly Bear

Throwing a Steer

Carl Rungius was one of the best big-game painters of all time. He was also a believer in creative thought. He's the kind of artist from whom you can learn. He was born in Germany and moved to the USA when he was in his early twenties. From his childhood sketching animals in the Berlin Zoo to his final settling in Banff, Alberta, his was a life of hunting and painting. He went to a lot of trouble to get it right. Before the advent of the fast field telephoto camera that is so useful to wildlife painters today, he was known to build structures to prop dead moose into lifelike positions. His works are drawing driven, based on hard-won know-how of animal anatomy and his love of the outdoors. His pictures have an overall design and cohesiveness that speaks of the draftsman's touch. While his surfaces are painterly and often modern in appearance, his work shows the value of preliminary sketches and preparatory roughs. He was also no stranger to repainting unsatisfactory passages and was known to go back into a work after years of worry.
In a world that was starting to think that creativity developed as you went along, Rungius was an artist who believed in thinking it out in advance. His compositions are filled with calculated lineups, radiating motifs, edge blocks, spot activation and other forms of eye-control. He was also careful colorists. Subtle earth-tones interact with impressionist nuances and reflected light, while delicately rendered negative areas and counterpoint add abstract interest. The difficult problem of animal fur, for example, was divided and designed into zones based on nap, shine and texture. He also mastered ways to show the volume of an animal's body and revelled in the variations of individual markings.
(Robert Genn at


Rungius' reputation as a premier wildlife artist was enhanced considerably by an expedition to the Yukon Territory in 1905. The artwork and social connections that resulted from that trip launched Rungius into the center of America's conservation movement, promoted by such famous American sportsmen as President Theodore Roosevelt. In 1910 he accepted an offer to visit the Canadian Rockies. The opportunities to hunt, explore, and paint the region were so appealing that in 1921 he built a summer studio called "The Paintbox" in Banff, where he worked from April to October of each year until his death in 1959.

1 comment:

scott davidson said...

Nice way to decorate your walls. I have never done that. My effort to beautify the walls in my house was to order big-
sized canvas prints from, from images of western art. I use the same angel motifs in all of the rooms
painted by different painters, such as this one by very interesting English artist Stanley Spencer,