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An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter

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An astounding novel from Argentina that is a meditation on the beautiful and the grotesque in nature, the art of landscape painting, and one experience in a man's life that became a lightning rod for inspiration. An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter is the story of a moment in the life of the German artist Johan Moritz Rugendas (1802-1858). Greatly admired as a master landscape painter, he was advised by Alexander von Humboldt to travel West from Europe to record the spectacular landscapes of Chile, Argentina, and Mexico. Rugendas did in fact become one of the best of the nineteenth-century European painters to venture into Latin America. However this is not a biography of Rugendas. This work of fiction weaves an almost surreal history around the secret objective behind Rugendas' trips to America: to visit Argentina in order to achieve in art the "physiognomic totality" of von Humboldt's scientific vision of the whole. Rugendas is convinced that only in the mysterious vastness of the immense plains will he find true inspiration. A brief and dramatic visit to Mendosa gives him the chance to fulfill his dream. From there he travels straight out onto the pampas, praying for that impossible moment, which would come only at an immense pricean almost monstrously exorbitant price that would ultimately challenge his drawing and force him to create a new way of making art. A strange episode that he could not avoid absorbing savagely into his own body interrupts the trip and irreversibly and explosively marks him for life.

From Publishers Weekly

May 22, 2006 – Part travelogue, part meditation on art, this brief, increasingly riveting fictionalized history by Argentinean author Aira (How I Became a Nun) reinvents German painter Johann Moritz Rugendas's ill-fated 1837 South American journey. Rugendas, a genre painter influenced by naturalist Alexander von Humboldt, first recorded the "exotic" landscape of the New World in the early 1820s and had early success with the illustrated Picturesque Voyage Through Brazil (1827). Aira dwells on Rugendas's disastrous second journey to South America, when the artist had hoped to penetrate the immense plains of Argentina. Accompanied by younger German painter Robert Krause, Rugenda traveled through the Chilean Cordillera, over the Andes and to the border town of Mendoza, before heading east across the Argentinean pampas towards Buenos Aires. But they encounter a vast stretch of the plains devastated by locusts, and with their horses starving, Rugendas heads out by himself in search of verdant land. He is twice hit by lightning, then dragged by his terrified horse. Disfigured and dependent on morphine thereafter to quell paralyzing nervous seizures, Rugendas redoubles his dedication to his art. Aira's documentary achieves a skillful synthesis of fact and imagination.
An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter
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  • $9.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Literary
  • Published: May 25, 2006
  • Publisher: New Directions
  • Seller: W. W. Norton
  • Print Length: 120 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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