DescriptionWILHELM KUHNERT (German, 1865-1926)
Ruhende Löwen (Lions at Rest)
Oil on canvas
16 x 24-1/2 inches (40.6 x 62.2 cm)
Signed lower right: Wilh. Kuhnert
Signed and inscribed verso: Wilhelm Kuhnert / Berlin / Ruhende Löwen
PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF JUDSON C. AND NANCY SUE BALL
Private collection, Switzerland;
Sotheby's, London, November 19, 2001, lot 171;
Richard Green, London.
Lions at Rest proves Friedrich Wilhelm Kuhnert's place among wildlife artists as the finest African game painter, a master of rendering animal physique and behavior. Although Kuhnert was a prolific artist, producing around 5,500 paintings, fewer than 1,000 exist today, making Lions at Rest that much more desirable. He developed his passion for animal painting during the 1880s in the classroom of Paul Meyerheim at the Royal Academy of Arts in Berlin, who taught the importance of sketching from live models at the zoo. On trips to Egypt, East Africa, and India, Kuhnert took Meyerheim's lesson one step further and began to draw animals in the wild - a feat especially challenging, as he was not a professional hunter or tracker. His reputation for rendering animal anatomy with unparalleled accuracy secured him a job illustrating zoologist Johann Wilhelm Haacke's 1901 Animal Life on Earth. Together with the Swede Bruno Liljefors and his fellow Germans Richard Friese and Carl Rungius, Kuhnert was one of "The Big Four," pioneers in early twentieth-century wildlife art who insisted upon observing and drawing animals in their natural habitats.
Kuhnert painted elephants, tigers, giraffes, and other giants of the African savannah, but lions were his favorite subjects, gaining him the nickname Wilhelm "Lion" Kuhnert. His lion canvases emphasize the social nature of the species, showing various combinations of males and females stalking prey, watching for danger, eating their kill, or sleeping in dens. Lions at Rest presents two hardy lions and a lioness relaxing after a hunt. Here, Kuhnert effects a mood of contentment, harmony, and bounty through the lions' postures, the lighting, and the surrounding environment: the bright sun shines on the two males, one, with his full belly protruding, blissfully licking his paw, the other, staring into space and about to fall asleep; meanwhile, the more alert lioness nestles in the lush green background brush. Kuhnert's Impressionist brushwork, rich color, and warm lighting further beautify these regal animals.
This painting will be included in the Kuhnert catalogue raisonné compiled by Dr. Angelika Grettmann-Werner and the late Dr. Hansjörg K. Werner.
Unlined canvas; no visible condition issues; under UV exam, there appears to be minor inpainting along the lower right extreme edge to address frame wear, and possible minor cosmetic inpainting around the lions' manes. Framed Dimensions 22 X 30.5 Inches
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