Rudolf Cronau was a writer and illustrator, best known for illustrated books of his travels in the American West.
Cronau was born in Solingen, Germany and studied at the Royal Academy in Dusseldorf under Andreas Muller and Andreas Achenbach. He went to work in Leipzig as both writer and illustrator for two popular newspapers. In 1881 the paper, Die Gartenlaube, sent him on an extended journey through the Americas to report on natural wonders that the German public would find strange, exotic, and fascinating. He started with articles on New York, Baltimore and Washington, and then headed to Minneapolis where he began a journey down the Mississippi River to Cairo, Illinois.
His next excursion brought Cronau to the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in Dakota Territory where he met Sitting Bull and other Native leaders. After an extended stay in the northern plains, he continued on to Yellowstone Park, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and San Francisco. He returned to the East in the winter of 1881-82 exploring Florida and Louisiana. The following summer and fall, Cronau made his second trip to the West, covering an enormous amount of territory, presumably by train, from Oregon to Texas. During this trip he created twelve articles for Die Gartenlaube.
Cronau was to have continued on to South America, but health problems forced his return to Germany late in 1882. Over the next few years he wrote and illustrated three travel books, Fahrten im Lande Der Sioux, Im Wilden Westen, and Von Wunderland zu Wunderland. The latter contained 50 collotype reproductions of his drawings from across America.
Most of Cronau’s work is in pencil or ink, sometimes enhanced with watercolor. He probably also did watercolor sketches. All of his drawings are carefully detailed and finely rendered in a style that clearly shows the influence of his training in the German Romantic tradition at the Royal Academy.
About 1894, Cronau returned to the United States as a foreign correspondent based in Washington, D.C. After a falling out with his employers, he worked as a free-lance writer in New York. Cronau became an American citizen in 1900. He continued to write magazine articles and books throughout the rest of his life. Most of his books are studies in German-American history.