BOB KUHN: A TRIBUTE
Bob Kuhn, one of our eras greatest wildlife artists, passed away this fall. His loss will be felt by many, in particular by those who have collected and appreciated his art since it began to appear in the public eye over sixty years ago. At the National Museum of Wildlife Art, Kuhns work has been admired by countless visitors since the opening day in 1987. In keeping with the museums initial focus on wildlife of the American West, the first Kuhn paintings on display featured North American subjects; foxes, hares, deer, bears, and mountain lions graced the galleries. As the museum grew, the scope of the collection grew as well, incorporating representations of animals from around the globe. The wider horizon allows the museum to tell the larger story of artists like Bob Kuhn, who is known for his North American subjects, but is equally well known for his paintings of animals from other continents, including elephants, tigers, leopards, and lions.
A modern pioneer in the field, Kuhn began traveling to Africa in the mid-1950s as commercial air travel and guided safaris became readily available. He studied the creatures of Africa and India with passion and recorded their behaviors in countless studies. His early illustrations show a distinctive style that grew to full fruition when he left the commercial illustration world in 1970. From his first calamitous opening in the Abercrombie and Fitch art gallery (the lights went out and attendees had to retrieve lanterns from the outfitting department downstairs) to the recent record-setting auctions of his work, Kuhn's paintings have remained in high demand. There is good reason for this ongoing appreciation, Kuhn was uncompromising in his attention to composition, color, light, and gesture; he brought a wealth of ability backed up by years of study to each painting. All of these elements combine in a work by Kuhn to create memorable, moving, dynamic paintings which leave lasting impressions and reward repeated viewings.
In 2002, the museum held a retrospective of Kuhn's art. Bringing together the finest examples of his work, we borrowed Firestorm (lot 163) from Doug and Ellen Miller, whose extraordinary collection is included in this sale (lots 135-191). One of the highlights of our exhibit, Firestorm depicts a herd of deer fleeing an approaching conflagration. Other works in the Miller collection display the great themes Kuhn painted over the course of his career, a lithe leopard lounging on a branch during the heat of the day (Leopard in Light and Shade, lot 152), an imposing elephant threatening to charge (Rear Guard, lot 151), and a stealthy tiger making his way through a dense jungle setting (Bright Tiger, lot 162). The Miller collection also includes a host of highly regarded historic and contemporary artists, many of whom are also included in the Permanent Collection of the National Museum of Wildlife Art. This sale represents an opportunity to purchase a work by masters in the field, one, in particular, who stood above the rest. Kuhn's friends and admirers will miss his presence, but will continue to admire and cherish his artwork. He leaves a lasting artistic legacy that will be appreciated by generations to come.
Dr. Adam Duncan Harris, Curator of Art
National Museum of Wildlife Art, Jackson, Wyoming
PROPERTY FROM THE DOUG AND ELLEN MILLER COLLECTION (LOTS 135 - 191)
Over nearly forty years, Doug and Ellen Miller have created one of the largest and most important collections of paintings, sculpture and wood carvings devoted to wildlife art in America. The artists in their collection capture myriad scenes of wonder and exhibit deep respect for wildlife on all continents. The wildlife and habitats of India, Africa and America are vividly captured in inspirational presentations and the scope of the collection is global.
A media packaging manufacturer, born in Michigan, Doug has been collecting wildlife art since the early 1960s. He was greatly influenced by his viewing of the King Tut exhibition. 'To me', he states, 'the great glory of the show was not that the objects were of gold - it was the honoring by that ancient culture of wildlife in most of their art. Everywhere, wonderfully understood, they had reproduced the cobra, the crocodile, the game birds that played such a significant part of their lives.' He sees wildlife art as one of the best means for recording and enjoying the often elusive creatures around us, 'Something inside all of us thrills to wildlife.'
Doug's passion for protecting the lives of wild species inspired him to collect paintings, sculptures and woodcarvings and to share them with the public. 'We've jeopardized these animals and it's our great responsibility to carve out parcels of the earth where they'll be able to survive. Beautiful art is probably the best way to arouse reverence and awe toward the creatures still living in freedom.' A keen conservationist, Doug recognized the importance of wildlife art in educating the public on animals and the importance of preserving their habitats to enable their survival.
In 1977 he founded the Wildlife World Art Museum in Monument, Colorado which housed his collection on loan. The major purpose in founding the museum was to preserve through a comprehensive collection of wildlife art exact replicas of all forms of wildlife, particularly the extinct and endangered species, and to make the collection available and accessible to the public for aesthetic, scientific and educational purposes so as to create in everyone a personal commitment to insure the future and well-being of our threatened wildlife and the habitats in which they live.
Over the years, Doug has purchased paintings by the best-known international artists and commissioned specific works directly from Bob Kuhn, Dennis Anderson, Don Malick, William Koelpin, Gerald Balciar and Guy Coheleach amongst others. Doug met Bob Kuhn in 1974 and since then has collected 11 of his works and the two became friends. The paintings are supported by bronzes by James L. Clark, sculptor to Theodore Roosevelt; Antoine-Louis Barye, Pierre-Jules Mêne and others. In addition to the extensive painting and sculpture collection, Doug and Ellen have one of the largest collections of bird carvings which he started in 1972 having seen his first wood-carving competition in Salisbury, Maryland in the early 1970s. Doug has been a judge at many competitions for wildlife art and bird carvings, including The World Championship, Ward Foundation, Maryland; The Society of Animal Artists, New York; North American Decoy Championship, Detroit; Californian Southwest Wildlife Art, San Diego; Canadian National Competition, Toronto; The Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences and he was Head Judge of the 50th Anniversary Federal Duck Stamp Competition, Washington, D.C.
In 1988, it was decided that the museum should be consolidated with other non-profit institutions and the Miller collection was made available for loans to interested major institutions. Doug and Ellen remain active collectors today in an effort to support emerging artists and new works.
PROPERTY FROM THE DOUG AND ELLEN MILLER COLLECTION