Carl Rungius was primarily known as a painter of big game. His fidelity to painting directly from life cannot be ignored and puts him at the top of the list as an outdoor painter. His depictions of the Canadian Rockies have not been surpassed to this day.
Carl Rungius was born in Germany in 1869. From an early age, he was determined to become an artist. His father, a pastor, wanted him to become a minister, but the young Carl refused and his father eventually relented. He studied at the Berlin Art Academy. Carl was enrolled in design and figure classes but found time to sketch at the zoo. Eventually, he assembled a portfolio of animal drawings and submitted them to Paul Mayerheim, the professor of animal drawing and painting at the Academy.
After studying at the academy, Carl stayed with his parents. His prospects for a successful career in art seemed slim until he was invited to visit his uncle in America. The trip would change Rungius’s life forever. At a sportsman show in New York, Carl met Ira Dodge, a Wyoming guide. Dodge invited Carl to come to Wyoming to experience American big game, first hand. This invitation was the opportunity the young painter needed. He would often make studies from the animals he shot—posing them with ropes back in his camp.
In New York, William Hornaday, the first director of the New York Zoological society, discovered Rungius. Hornaday introduced the artist to the wealthy patrons who were critical to Runguis’s success in his career. Hornaday was responsible for many of Rungius commissions in the following years. He also introduced him to the lucrative world of illustration, which was in its golden age.
While Carl was living with his uncle in New York he became close with his cousin Louise. After she graduated from Columbia University, the two married.
Carl Rungius was concerned that his focus on wildlife was hurting his reputation as a serious painter. To remedy this, he began focusing on the landscape and entering national shows. His trips to the Canadian Rockies helped influence this change of focus. As he matured, Rungius changed his painting style, moving away from the academic approach he was taught in Germany. His palette lightened and he incorporated many aspects of Impressionism into his painting.
Carl Rungius died of a stroke at his easel in 1959.
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Carl Rungius: The Complete Prints. A Catalog RaisonneDonald E. Crouch
“You have to keep painting outdoors; if you paint outdoor scenes in your studio your color invariably gets too warm, too hot. Only if you paint outdoors do you see the cool silvery tones that are the true colors of nature.” -Carl Rungius