Born in Wilrijk, Belgium, Carl Brenders first studied at the Fine Arts Academy of Antwerp and later at Berchem. He made his debuts in the art world as an illustrator for well-established European publishing companies. His illustrations of wildlife for the book series La vie secrète des bêtes (Hachette) were later published in English as Nature’s Hidden World. These books already show what was to become Carl’s trademark: the accurate capture of his subjects and their habitat.
Nature in all its diversity is Carl Brenders’s one and only inspiration. No subject is too humble or noble for him. He will paint with equal love and focus a cluster of ladybugs, a clutch of ducklings, a fox, a pride of lions or a small patch of lichen growing on a branch. Capturing nature’s wildlife in all its beauty and drama imparts Carl’s work with considerable and captivating variety. The meticulously detailed paintings, so striking in their tactile realism, express the artist’s philosophy that nature is perfect: “This is why I paint the way I do with so much detail and so much realism – I want to capture that perfection”.
All of Carl’s paintings derive from an extensive on site study of the fauna, flora and environment. He will personally take countless photos of the animal and its habitat, taking great care to document all the elements that will set the stage for his subject such as the vegetation at a particular time of year, the light, the relief of the landscape, the shape and color of the rocks… Only then will Carl let his imagination kick in, “the painting takes form in my mind and I make a few sketches.” His vision finally materializes in a detailed pencil drawing which he then projects to his illustration board making adjustments to his composition before applying color. Although Carl has experimented twice with acrylic paint, he remains partial to the technique he has developed over the last thirty years. His paintings, typically created on illustration board, are executed in a mixed-media combination of watercolor and gouache.
The powerful renditions of wildlife in all its spectrum, the mastery of details and the tactile realism Carl creates in his paintings irresistibly draw in the viewers, confronting them to a close encounter with an elusive and, sometimes, dangerous animal. Such vivid emotion caused by the artist’s capture of nature explains the popularity of Carl Brenders with the public and his stature in the art world.
Carl’s notoriety in the art world has been felt in many venues. In 2002 at the prestigious Birds in Art Exhibition organized by the Woodson Art Museum in Wausau, WI, he was honored with Master Artist status. He was also conferred the titles of Featured Artist and Guest Artist from the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition in Charleston, SC, the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson, WY and Bennington Center for the Arts, VT. Carl Brenders’ paintings are present in prestigious permanent collections such as The Ford Collection in Dearborn, MI and those of the Woodson Art Museum and the National Museum of Wildlife Art. In 1998 he was inducted into the U.S. Art Hall of Fame. Outside the United States, his paintings received a lot of attention at major art auctions such as Christie’s, UK, Bonham’s in Singapore and Mondiale, LTD in Hong Kong. The high point of Carl’s career was a retrospective exhibition of 30 of his works entitled “Artistry in Nature: The Wildlife Paintings of Carl Brenders” which opened in 1997 at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History before traveling to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Cleveland OH, the Bernheim Museum & Arboretum in Louisville, KY and the Norton Art Gallery in Shreveport, LA.
Art publications have featured Carl Brenders in books such as More Wildlife Paintings Techniques of Modern Masters (Watson-Guptill Publications, 1996) and The Best of Wildlife Art (North Light Books, 1997), Wild: The Amazing World of Wild Animals (Harvest House Publishers, 2004). His art is also the main focus of Wildlife: The Nature paintings of Carl Brenders (Harry N. Abrams, 1994), Song of Creation (Baker Books, 2000), and Pride of Place: The Art of Carl Brenders (Langford Press, UK 2007).
The deep respect and admiration Carl feels towards nature and its wildlife does not only manifest itself in his works but also in his staunch defense of the environment in a world that has become more and more hostile to animals and vegetation. The passionate plea he enters in the statement he wrote for his Endangered Ambassadors, a rendition of two Bengal tiger cubs, is particularly moving and speaks of his commitment to the preservation of the environment. Carl, the artist, is also a fervent naturalist and environmentalist.