Carl Rungius, One of the “Big Four,” at the NSLM, Middleburg, Virginia

Elk, Near Fremont Peak (1903)

In 1894, Rungius’s “American uncle” invited him to hunt moose in Maine, but he did not collect a trophy.  Instead of returning forever to Germany, however, and a career illustrating magazines such as Das Weidwerk im Wort und Bild, (The Art of Hunting in Words and Pictures), he attended New York’s first Sportsman’s Show. There he met Ira Dodge, a hunting guide representing the Union Metallic Cartridge Company, who invited him to hunt in Wyoming. 

Rungius would make his way from Opal in a covered wagon and a four-horse team to the Wind River Mountains, where he spent six months hunting pronghorn antelope, mule deer, and elk, ingeniously stringing up his quarry to sketch it from different angles at different times of day.  After a trip back to Germany in 1896, he turned around and opted instead for the Land of Opportunity.

Hunting Guide Ira Dodge in 1895

Although he still hadn’t killed a moose, Rungius used one from a taxidermy shop as a model.  The portrait hanging in fashionable Knoedler’s Gallery in Manhattan led to high-society hunter-naturalist friends and clients. Soon enough, Rungius also belonged to the Boone and Crockett and Camp-Fire Clubs.

Rungius’s moose attracted hunters

For 15 years, Rungius worked as a graphic artist, illustrating animal tales and outdoor magazines such as Forest and Stream and Recreation, while his time in the field exploded. In 1904, he accompanied naturalist Charles Sheldon to the Yukon to shoot and paint Dall and Fannin sheep in an effort to determine whether they were separate species or different color phases of the same animal. For a decade, he hunted moose on foot in New Brunswick, and later on horseback through Canada’s high-country plateaus. 

In 1910, after pursuing bighorn sheep, caribou, and bear in the Canadian Rockies, Rungius made portraying North American game in art his mission and built a studio, The Paint Box, in Banff, where he hunted and painted for six months a year, right up until two years before his death at age 90. 

No Trespassing
No Trespassing

No wonder Rungius allegedly turned down Hermann Göring’s invitation to East Prussia’s hunting grounds: The North American wilderness was his personal hunting preserve. 

Survival of the Fittest: 
Envisioning Wildlife and Wilderness with the Big Four 
Masterworks from the Rijksmuseum Twenthe 
and the National Museum of Wildlife Art

Until January 14, 2024

National Sporting Library & Museum
102 The Plains Road
Middleburg, VA 20018
[email protected]

When asking directions, Brooke Chilvers quickly realized the local pronunciation of Enschede has nothing to do with its spelling; you can find a link on its Wikipedia page.  In fact, Dr. Knolle explained that during World War II, spies were exposed by their incorrect accent when they said it.