Carl Rungius famously said, “If you paint outdoor scenes in the studio, your color gets too hot. Only if you paint outdoors do you see the cool, silvery tones that are the true colors of nature.” A new exhibition, mounted by the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson Hole explores Rungius’s approach to working en plein air that made him a veritable “Monet of the Mountains” according to Curator of Art Adam Duncan Harris. “Rugged Impressionism: The Masterful Field Studies of Carl Rungius,” May 1 – October 7, 2012, provides visitors with a rare view of artwork the renowned wildlife artist created while out in the wilderness and shows how those studies later informed the finished large-scale works he created in his studio.
“The landscape studies Rungius left behind were, in many ways, working documents for him, but they have long been prized by admirers for their fresh and immediate take on the landscapes Rungius loved,” says Harris. “Being able to see these rarely exhibited field works side by side with the finished paintings they inspired offers an interesting window into his creative process.”
Though Rungius never identified himself as an Impressionist, his great outdoor studies illustrate his respect for the techniques of pioneering artists like Claude Monet, and his time spent in the wilderness capturing the light and colors of landscapes as he experienced them helped define the signature style for which he is best known. The artist’s dedication to painting en plein air is evidenced in an oft-quoted passage he told biographer William Schaldach later in life. Describing the hordes of mosquitos that plagued the party on his Yukon expedition, Rungius said, “When I got through with an oil sketch the palette looked like a mince pie with the crust off! And I had to clean the sketch itself with a forceps to remove the carcasses.”
A member of the Museums West consortium and accredited by the American Association of Museums, the National Museum of Wildlife Art of the United States provides an exciting calendar of exhibitions from its permanent collection and changing exhibitions from around the globe. A complete schedule of museum exhibitions and events is available online at www.wildlifeart.org. The museum is also active on Facebook at wildlifeartjh and on Twitter at @wildlifeartjh.