Johann Moritz Rugendas

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Moritz Rugendas; Calotype by Franz Hanfstaengl (before 1850).

Johann Moritz Rugendas (29 March 1802 – 29 May 1858) was a German painter, famous for his works depicting landscapes and ethnographic subjects in several countries in the Americas, in the first half of the 19th century. Rugendas is considered "by far the most varied and important of the European artists to visit Latin America"[1] whom Alexander von Humboldt influenced.[2] Rugendas is also the subject of César Aira's 2000 novel, An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter.


Rugendas was born in Augsburg, then Holy Roman Empire, now Germany, into the seventh generation of a family of noted painters and engravers of Augsburg (he was a great grandson of Georg Philipp Rugendas, 1666–1742, a celebrated painter of battles),[3] and studied drawing and engraving with his father, Johann Lorenz Rugendas II (1775–1826). From 1815-17, he studied with Albrecht Adam (1786–1862), and later in the Academy de Arts of Munich, with Lorenzo Quaglio II (1793–1869). When Rugendas was born, Augsburg was a Free Imperial City of the Holy Roman Empire, and after the Napoleonic Wars, it became in 1806 a city in the newly created Kingdom of Bavaria.

Inspired by the artistic work of Thomas Ender (1793–1875) and the travel accounts in the tropics by German naturalists Johann Baptist von Spix (1781–1826) and Carl von Martius (1794–1868), in the course of the Austrian Brazil Expedition, Rugendas arrived in Brazil in 1821. There he was soon hired as an illustrator for Baron von Langsdorff's scientific expedition to Minas Gerais and São Paulo. Langsdorff was the consul-general of the Russian Empire in Brazil and had a farm in the northern region of Rio de Janeiro, where Rugendas went to live with other members of the expedition.[citation needed]

In this capacity, Rugendas visited the Serra da Mantiqueira and the historical towns of Barbacena, São João del Rei, Mariana, Ouro Preto, Caeté, Sabará and Santa Luzia. Just before the fluvial phase of the expedition started (a fateful journey to the Amazon), he became alienated from von Langsdorff, left the expedition and was replaced by the artists Adrien Taunay and Hércules Florence. However, Rugendas remained on his own in Brazil until 1825, exploring and recording his many impressions of daily life in the provinces of Mato Grosso, Pernambuco, Bahia, Espírito Santo and Rio de Janeiro. He produced mostly drawings and watercolors.[citation needed]

On his return to Europe between 1825 and 1828, Rugendas lived successively in Paris, Augsburg and Munich, with the aim of learning new art techniques, such as oil painting. There, he published from 1827 to 1835, with the help of Victor Aimé Huber, his monumental book Voyage Pittoresque dans le Brésil (Picturesque Voyage to Brazil), with more than 500 illustrations, which became one of the most important documents about Brazil in the 19th century.[4]

He studied in Italy, but re-inspired by explorer and naturalist, Alexander Humboldt (1769–1859), whom he had once met, Rugendas sought financial support for a much more ambitious project of recording pictorially the life and nature of Latin America; in his words "an endeavor to truly become the illustrator of life in the New World". In 1831 he traveled first to Haiti, and then to Mexico; in Mexico, he did drawings and watercolors of Morelia, Teotihuacan, Xochimilco, and Cuernavaca.[5] He also began to use oil painting, with excellent results. Unfortunately, Rugendas was incarcerated and expelled from the country after he became involved in a failed coup against Mexico's president, Anastasio Bustamante, in 1834.[citation needed]

From 1834-44 he travelled to Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Peru and Bolivia, and finally went back to Rio de Janeiro, in 1845. Well-accepted and feted by the court of Emperor Dom Pedro II, he executed portraits of several members of the royal court and participated in an artistic exposition, at the age of 44, in 1846, Rugendas departed for Europe.[6]


He died on 29 May 1858 in Weilheim an der Teck, Germany, King Maximilian II of Bavaria having acquired most of his works in exchange for a life pension. His painting "Columbus taking Possession of the New World" (1855) is on view at the Neue Pinakothek, in Munich.[citation needed]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Mary Jo Miles, "Johann Moritz Rugendas" in Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture, vol. 4, p. 619. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons 1996.
  2. ^ Sigrid Achenbach. Kunst um Humboldt: Reisestudiern aus Mittel- un Südamerika von Rugendas, Bellerman un Hildebrandt im Berliner Kupferstichkabinett. Berlin: Kupferstichkabinett Statliche Musee 2009.
  3. ^ Lody, Raul Giovanni da Motta (2004). Cabelos de axé: identidade e resistência. Senac. p. 54. ISBN 85-7458-162-3. 
  4. ^ Miles, "Rugendas" p. 619.
  5. ^ Miles, "Johann Moritz Rugendas", p. 619.
  6. ^ Miles, "Rugendas", p. 619.

Further reading[edit]

  • Ades, Dawn, Art in Latin America. 1989.
  • Diener, P.: Rugendas, 1802-1858. Wissner; Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Augsburg and Santiago de Chile, 1997. A massive catalogue of works in Spanish and Portuguese.
  • Lemos, Carlos. The Art of Brazil 1983.
  • Miles, Mary Jo. "Johann Moritz Rugendas" in Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture, vol. 4, p. 619. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons 1996.
  • Milla Batres, Carlos. Juan Mauricio Rugendas: El Perú Romántico del siglo XIX. Lima: Milla Batres 1975.
  • Juan Mauricio Rugendas en Mexico (1831-1834) : un pintor en la senda de Alejandro de Humboldt ; exposición del Instituto Ibero-Americano, Patrimonio Cultural Prusiano, Berlin. Berlin : Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut, 2002.

External links[edit]