Executed in 1918.
Avid outdoorsman and hunter Carl Rungius remains one of America's most renowned painters of big game animals. Many of his works depict the bear, surely one of the most magnificent North American creatures. Having had little formal artistic training, Rungius once remarked "nature is still the best teacher and I paint as I feel it." (D. Allen, Majesty and Wilderness, Works by Carl Rungius, Corning, New York, 1985, p. 5) His studies bear this statement out, as the artist diligently trained himself by photographing, sketching, and collecting specimens for study on his hunting trips out West, honing his ability to accurately render his subjects.
After becoming a member of the Salmagundi Club, a society of artists in New York, Rungius began "actively participating in the social functions [and] struck up friendships with such artists as Frank Tenney Johnson, Louise Betts, Ben Foster, and Jonas Lie. A few of his associates were also members of the prestigious National Academy of Design. Founded in 1826, the National Academy is the oldest organization in the United States composed exclusively of artists...To an artist, election in such an august body could, and frequently did, guarantee a place in the front rank of American art. Rungius began to enter his finest big game paintings in the Academy's annual Spring and Winter exhibitions." (Majesty and Wilderness, Works by Carl Rungius, p. 14) Around the time he painted the present canvas, he had gained such critical success in New York that he was bestowed with the honor of National Academician, and furthered his reputation as an influential and active member of the artistic community.
Here, an Alaskan Brown Bear ambles confidently through a mountainous landscape. As is likely the case with this painting, Rungius would often create a composite scene, painting the animal from either an inanimate specimen or from many of his meticulously accurate drawn studies. Once he had decided on how to paint the animal, he would select a sketch of a landscape "painted from the animal's natural habitat" (Majesty and Wilderness, Works by Carl Rungius, p. 23), and superimpose the animal onto the scene for a final preparatory work. From these 12 x 16 inch sketches he would start the large-scale canvas. His measured process for painting and dramatic results place him squarely in the realm of America's best wildlife painters.