DescriptionCARL CLEMENS MORITZ RUNGIUS (American, 1869-1959)
His Domain, circa 1916
Oil on canvas
30 x 40 inches (76.2 x 101.6 cm)
Signed lower right: C. Rungius
PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF JUDSON C. AND NANCY SUE BALL
Collection of Marion W. and Samuel B. Lawrence, Winter Park, Florida;
Biltmore Galleries, Scottsdale, Arizona, 1999.
Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, Florida, "In the American Spirit: Realism and Impressionism from the Lawrence Collection," March 21-June 13, 1999.
J.A. Hardin and V.A. Leeds, In the American Spirit: Realism and Impressionism from the Lawrence Collection, exhibition catalogue, Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, Florida, 1999, p. 45, illustrated.
Carl Rungius' His Domain, which he considered a fine example of his work, epitomizes his place as the premiere early twentieth-century North American wildlife painter, specializing in the grizzlies and moose of the Canadian Rockies (C. Rungius to Mr. Eaton Perkins, December 30, 1949). A German native and graduate of the Berlin Art Academy, Rungius first became enamored of the American landscape after big-game hunting trips to Maine and Wyoming during the mid 1890s, ultimately galvanizing him to move to New York in 1896. As the U.S. conservation movement, spearheaded by his patron Theodore Roosevelt, was burgeoning in the early 1900s, Rungius readily received commissions from naturalists and wildlife organizations to illustrate their publications. In 1910, a tour guide from Banff, Alberta, impressed by one of Rungius' illustrations for the New York Zoological Society, invited him to Canada for an all-expense-paid sheep hunt. Rungius so enjoyed this expedition in the Canadian Rockies that he began to split his time between there and New York, and in 1921 he built a summer studio in Banff, "The Paintbox."
Like his fellow wildlife artists Wilhelm Kuhnert and Richard Friese, Rungius expertly rendered animal anatomy; indeed, as an accomplished hunter and the grandson of a taxidermist, he routinely examined game carcasses. Yet what distinguishes Rungius as a wildlife painter is his equal skill as a landscapist. Far more than animal habitats, his Canadian landscapes capture a romantic vision of the wilderness as pristine, vital, even spiritual. Working en plein air with a lively Impressionist technique, Rungius mastered all elements of the expansive landscape, from distant, craggy mountain ranges and atmospheric skies to foreground flora and patterned deadfall. The combination of Impressionist palette and Edenic landscape with majestic animals made his paintings extremely marketable, particularly among wealthy conservationist patrons.
An early Canadian landscape from 1916, His Domain "illustrates a particular locale in western Alberta, Canada; it is north of Bow Pass on Lake Louise with Silverhorn Peak visible in the background" (J.A. Hardin and V.A. Leeds, In the American Spirit: Realism and Impressionism from the Lawrence Collection, St. Petersburg, Florida, 1999, p. 16-17). Here, Rungius highlights one of his favorite subjects, the grizzly bear, identifiable by the telltale hump between the shoulders. Emerging from hibernation, the bear forages for food, lumbering away from the viewer as if to say, "Go away; this is my domain, not yours." Rungius contrasts the pastel blue-and-purple palette of the Rockies with the earth tones of the Lake Louise environs, yet he unifies the composition with short, deft brushstrokes. In having the bear move from dark shrubbery toward an illuminated vista, Rungius also metaphorically hints at a hopeful future for the animal, untainted by man's encroachment.
Wax-lined canvas; very faint craquelure in the upper left quadrant; stable surface; under UV exam, there appears to be minor inpainting along the top and right extreme edges to address frame wear, including a quarter-size spot in the sky at the far right top edge, as well as a fleck of inpainting in the sky at the upper center left extreme edge. Framed Dimensions 39.5 X 49.5 Inches
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