Rudolf Friederick Kurz1818 - 1871
Born: January 8, 1818, Berne, Switzerland
Died: 1871, Berne, Switzerland
Rudolf Friederich Kurz studied art in Switzerland and Paris before coming to America in 1846 with the dream of drawing and painting the Indians. Traveling along the Mississippi and Upper Missouri Rivers, he lived and worked at fur trading outposts such as Fort Berthold and Fort Union. He came with the goal of drawing Indians but also sketched wild animals of the region, domesticated animals of the forts, and life in the trader camps. When his art supplies ran out in 1852, he returned home to Switzerland where he became a master of design at the cantonal, or regional, school in Berne.
As he observed animals in nature, Kurz made hundreds of small pencil and pen-and-ink drawings, which he considered scientific studies. He recorded in his journal, "Saw, today, a large herd of elks grazing on the hills. With the aid of my telescope I studied for a long while their different postures and movements." He planned on turning the sketches into composed paintings after returning to the studio. However, he never got the chance to fulfill that goal due to illness, and he produced few paintings after returning home to Berne.
(Quote: Kurz, Rudolf Friederich. Journal of Rudolf Friederich Kurz: An Account of His Experiences Among Fur Traders and American Indians on the Mississippi and the Upper Missouri Rivers During the Years 1846 to 1852. Translated by Myrtis Jarrell. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 1970, p. 322)