An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter by César Aira:
Western art can boast few documentary painters of true distinction. Of those whose lives and works we know in detail, the finest was Rugendas, who made two visits to Argentina. The second, in 1847, gave him an opportunity to record the landscapes and physical types of the Río de la Plata – in such abundance that an estimated two hundred paintings remained in the hands of local collectors – and to refute his friend and admirer Humboldt, or rather a simplistic interpretation of Humboldt’s theory, according to which the painter’s talent should have been exercised solely in the more topographically and botanically exuberant regions of the New World. But the refutation had in fact been foreshadowed ten years earlier, during Rugendas’s brief and dramatic first visit, which was cut short by a strange episode that would mark a turning point in his life.