Moritz Rugendas

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Moritz Rugendas, calotype before 1852
Capoeira or the dance of war by Johann Moritz Rugendas, 1835

Johann Moritz Rugendas (born March 29, 1802 in Augsburg , † May 29, 1858 in Weilheim an der Teck in Württemberg) was a 19th century artist from Augsburg and a descendant of the important artist family Rugendas . He traveled to Central and South America for several years. Inspired by Alexander von Humboldt , his aim was not only to depict the exotic nature of South America, but also to depict people and their customs.


Johann Moritz Rugendas was born in Augsburg on March 29, 1802. He received training from his father, then from family friend Albrecht Adam, and later at the Munich Art Academy .

Rugenda's working method consisted of first making a detailed pencil sketch with notes on the color scheme and then a sketch in oil. From the combination of these working materials, he then composed further oil sketches and finally detailed paintings into which he integrated figurative staffage and scenes. He had a penchant for scientific portrayals and was practiced in outdoor painting. Rugendas was able to accurately and succinctly capture the various landscapes in all their peculiarities.

At the age of 19, Rugendas was invited by Baron Georg Heinrich von Langsdorf to join the most extensive scientific expedition to date in what is now Brazil as a draftsman. His first drawings are therefore of a purely scientific nature and were used in South America from 1822. However, after a dispute with Langsdorf in 1825, Rugendas returned to Europe, where he met Alexander von Humboldt in Paris. He was enthusiastic about his work and became his friend, mentor and supporter throughout his life. With Humboldt's help, Rugendas published the book Voyage pittoresque dans le Brésil with 100 lithographs made by him.

In 1829/30 Rugendas went to Italy to study. In 1831 he made another trip to America, this time on his own. His destination was Mexico , which he traveled for three years and where he mainly devoted himself to landscape painting. 18 of his drawings were reproduced in steel engravings by well-known artists and published in the book Mexico and the Mexicans by Carl Sartorius in 1858 and 1859.

From Mexico the artist went on to Chile , which he toured for eight years. There he dealt intensively with the population and its cultural history. As he was very interested in the native Indian population, he traveled to the south of the continent, which was spared from the Spanish colonization civilization until the second half of the 19th century. There he portrayed Indians who came to the border posts and thus provided a detailed description of the people living there. In 1847 he visited Peru , Argentina , Uruguay and then returned to Brazil.

In March 1847 he reached England. In Paris he tried unsuccessfully to sell his works. But it was only at the suggestion of King Ludwig I (Bavaria) that the Bavarian state acquired his America work in 1848, consisting of a collection of 3,353 studies - some oil sketches, some watercolors, some pencil drawings - for an annual pension. The purchase was recommended by a commission from the Academy of Sciences, as the collection is of high scientific and artistic value. Most of these works have been preserved and are now in the State Graphic Collection in Munich .

At the instigation of Alexander von Humboldt, King Friedrich Wilhelm IV awarded him the Order of the Red Eagle, 3rd class.

On May 29, 1858, Moritz Rugendas died impoverished in Weilheim an der Teck of a ruptured artery of the heart.

Literary afterlife

Johann Moritz Rugendas and his travels through Latin America as well as Robert Krause are the focus of the novel Un episodio en la vida del pintor viajero by César Aira (German: Humboldts Schatten in the translation by Matthias Strobel and An episode from the life of a travel painter in the translation of Christian Hansen).

Rugendas is the main character in the novel "The Quartet of Lovers" by Carlos Franz (from the Spanish by Lutz Kliche).



  • Hyacinth HollandRugendas, Moritz . In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Volume 29, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1889, pp. 601-604.
  • Gertrud Richert : Johann Moritz Rugendas. A German painter in Ibero America . Munich 1952.
  • Gertrud Richert: La correspondencia del pintor alemán Juan Mauricio Rugendas . In: Boletin de la Academia Chilena de la Historia 19, 2, 1952, pp. 137-155; 20, 1, 1953, pp. 157-184; 20, 2, 1953, pp. 183-209; 21, 1 1954, pp. 149-173; 21, 2, 1954, pp. 91-148.
  • Gertrud Richert: Johann Moritz Rugendas. A German painter of the XIX. Century . Berlin 1959.
  • Renate Löschner: Johann Moritz Rugendas in Mexico. Picturesque journey in the years 1831–1834 . Exhibition of the Ibero-American Institute of Prussian Cultural Heritage in Berlin 1984/1985. Berlin 1984.
  • Pablo Diener-Ojeda: Johann Moritz Rugendas. Pictures from Mexico . Illustrated book and catalog for the exhibition in Augsburg 1993. Wissner, Augsburg 1993, ISBN 3-928898-23-X .
  • César Aira: Humboldt's shadow. Novella . Nagel and Kimche, Munich / Vienna 2003, ISBN 3-312-00321-0 .
  • Christof Metzger, Christof Trepesch: Chile and Johann Moritz Rugendas . Wernersche Verlagsgesellschaft, Worms 2007, ISBN 978-3-88462-245-2 .
  • Sigrid Achenbach: Art around Humboldt. Travel studies from Central and South America by Rugendas, Bellermann and Hildebrandt in the Berlin Kupferstichkabinett. Hirmer, Munich, 2009.
  • Silke Friedrich-Sander: Johann Moritz Rugendas. Travel pictures between empiricism and sensation Edition Fichter, Frankfurt / Main 2017, ISBN 978-3-943856-64-4 .

Web links

Commons : Johann Moritz Rugendas  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Sabine Schulze (Ed.): Gardens: Order - Inspiration - Luck , Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main & Hatje Cantz Verlag, Ostfildern 2006, ISBN 978-3-7757-1870-7 , p. 58.
  2. Renate Löschner: The illustration of America under the influence of Alexander von Humboldt . In: Wolfgang-Hagen Hein (Ed.): Alexander von Humboldt. Life and work . Boehringer, Ingelheim 1985, ISBN 3-921037-55-7 , pp. 289-291 .
  3. ^ Adrian Schulz: The flickering of the world: César Aira sends nature painters through South America. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. November 24, 2016, p. 12.