AN IMPORTANT PRIVATE COLLECTION OF WORKS BY WILHELM KUHNERT FROM A SCOTTISH COUNTRY HOUSE
When looking at Wilhelm Kuhnert's oeuvre one is left with no doubt that the artist was a great lover of wildlife and that he found his subject matter a constant source of inspiration. His great affinity for the African continent and the Far East stemmed from a desire to experience and capture the exotic. A keen and skilled hunter himself, he was fascinated by the raw and uncompromising dance between prey and predator. Kuhnert returned to Africa year after year in the hunt for both game and subjects for his art.
Wilhelm Kuhnert received his artistic education under the tutelage of the animal painter Paul Meyerheim in Berlin, where he learned to master the rendering of animal fur, hair and muscles. His extraordinary talent was noticed early on by his teachers, who advised him to dedicate his art to capturing the essence of wildlife. The young artist enthusiastically embraced their advice and in pursuit of his chosen genre, he travelled extensively, spending a significant amount of time in Ceylon and East Africa, where he was captivated by the wild beauty of the landscapes and their equally exotic denizens.
At a time when the majority of animal artists were painting their motifs in captivity, Kuhnert distinguished himself from his contemporaries (and indeed his teacher, Meyerheim) by travelling to sketch animals in their natural habitats. During his travels he recorded thedates and places he visited in his diary and made hundreds of charcoal and pencil studies of the animals he saw. Upon returning to Germany, he then completed the works in his studio, drawing upon his experiences and first-hand knowledge gathered from his adventures.
The writer and critic J. G. Millais wrote, '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.' In the opinion of Millais, 'there is no finer exponent of African mammals than Wilhelm Kuhnert. We who have travelled 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 with 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 wildlife are complete because you know he has been through the mill himself, and studies with humility.'
The following collection represent a body of work by theartist produced at the height of his abilities. Be it the lions and the antelope on the plains of Africa, the bathing elephants in the river or the tigers stalking in their impenetrable forests, the viewer is drawn in by the artist's ability to set a captivating scene.