Wilhelm Kuhnert is considered one of the greatest wildlife painters in art history. Kuhnert trained under the animal painter Paul Meyerheim (see lots 36 and 232) in Berlin, where he first mastered the art of rendering animal fur, hair, and muscles. His talents were noted by his teachers, who advised him to devote himself entirely to animal painting. Enthusiastically taking their advice and in pursuit of this subject, he traveled extensively in Africa and the East, especially in Ceylon and East Africa, where he was decisively captivated by the wild beauty of these exotic landscapes, ultimately devoting his career and artistic talent to the depiction of exotic wildlife.
A keen hunter, he returned to Africa and the East year after year in the hunt for both game and subjects for his art, winning him the accolade of the writer and critic J.G. Millais, who enthused that 'Germany has given us some great artists...who with thorough technical and anatomical knowledge, have yet added to their genius by going afield and studying the various beasts in their own homes. They have surpassed other artists because they have not been content with caged creatures, but have mastered that great essential, local atmosphere, as well', and indeed the palettes of this picture is saturated with the colors of their habitats: the dry golden palette evokes the dry season, as the golden lions emerge from the dry brush, stalking their prey.
In the opinion of Millais 'there is no finer exponent of African mammals than Wilhelm Kuhnert. We who have traveled do not need to be told that his studies from nature are correct. His lions, elephants, zebras and antelopes are so real that we feel we are gazing at them on the plains of East Africa. The landscapes are simple but intense. Sunlight is there, and the tree and grass are just those that grow in the habitat of these species. Kuhnert has, as it were, got inside the very skin of African life, and draws you insensibly within the charmed circle. To the big game hunter...the man who loves to observe in preference to the man who only shoots, his views of wild life are complete because you know he has been through the mill himself, and studies with humility.'