Bull Elk in the High Country is a distinguished example of Carl Rungius’ celebrated style. Characterized by a steadfast commitment to rendering the natural beauty of North America with scientific integrity, Rungius’ approach is unique in its masterful combination of precise detail and modern painterly aesthetics. Raised in Rixdorf, Germany outside of Berlin, Rungius refined his skills as a draughtsman by sketching wildlife in the local zoo near his home. In 1894, the artist’s uncle invited him on a hunting trip in Maine, an experience that would have a profound impact on the trajectory of Rungius’ life and artistic career. The following year, he spent the summer on a hunting expedition in Wyoming. On these early trips, Rungius developed what would become a lifelong passion for the American wilderness, and the wildlife indigenous to the Rocky Mountains of Western North America in particular.
In 1897, Rungius settled permanently in New York but continued to conduct regular expeditions to the Western United States, Canada, and Alaska. As both artist and practicing zoologist, Rungius conducted intense field studies for each of his paintings. He produced numerous plein air sketches and extensive on-site photographs in preparation for each final composition, which he finished in the studio. An accomplished hunter, Rungius’ experience with taxidermy contributed significantly to his knowledge of the anatomy of the wildlife that he frequently depicted. In part due to his diligent, exhaustive study of the western landscape, his works and expeditions were often supported by the New York Zoological Society. Rungius’ paintings were received with enthusiasm throughout his career, as the American public developed a greater interest in the preservation of their country’s unique natural world.