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On Yukon Waters

Near Kalzas Mountain, Yukon

1907, Carl Rungius

oil on canvas

Glenbow Museum Collection, 55.5.1


The vast majority of Carl Rungius’ paintings are un-peopled images containing only the landscape and indigenous fauna appearing undisturbed, alert and proud. This approach highlights the artist’s affinity for pure wilderness, uninhabited and raw.

One of Rungius’ many strengths as a painter was his ability to paint wildlife with mass and weight. A sense of presence exists in his subjects – every posture and form appears natural.

As with all Rungius’ work, the palette here is realistic, never straying into interpretation or exaggeration. By keeping his colours constrained, he lends his compositions a sense of place sometimes lost in other more amplified landscapes. The choice of landscape indicates a desire to pair the moose with an equally epic setting.

Resisting the artistic ideology of naturalism, Rungius broke pictorial elements down and rearranged them to manufacture an image of nature derived from aesthetics, complete with its own subtle sense of order.

His work consciously ignores the elements of chaos found in natural settings. Evidently, while he admired nature, Rungius felt it needed to be moulded and not translated into art.

The moose’s gaze into the landscape mirrors our own gaze into the painting, provoking us to contemplate the similarities in the way we perceive his environment. One could even personify the moose with the reverence we feel for his landscape.

One thing is clear; it was Rungius’ own reverence for nature that propelled him to paint what he did.