Wilhelm Kuhnert (1865-1926) left his native Berlin to become one of the first German artists ever to work deep within the rainforests and savannahs of Africa and Asia. To commemorate the 150th anniversary of Kuhnert’s birth, the Nationalgalerie is honoured to present a cabinet exhibition dedicated to this pioneer of plein-air painting, whose work serves as an eloquent demonstration of how art and science can overlap and communicate through one another. The exhibition also seeks to redress some of the neglect the artist’s reputation has suffered over the years: despite the great acclaim he enjoyed during his lifetime, and the enthusiasm his work continues to generate among dedicated collectors throughout the world, Wilhelm Kuhnert’s name is for the most part unknown to modern audiences.
It was as an illustrator of 'Brehm’s Life of Animals' that Wilhelm Kuhnert would find fame in later life, drawing upon earlier travel experiences every bit as remarkable as the paintings themselves. Over the course of four expeditions, Kuhnert travelled extensively through areas of Central Africa which were then still largely unexplored by Europeans. During this time Kuhnert set about sketching the region’s wildlife in all its variety, and despite working in extremely difficult conditions, was able to depict animals both in anatomical sketches as well as natural scenes depicting their habitat.
The Alte Nationalgalerie’s 'Kuhnert Among Lions' exhibition takes visitors on a spectacular journey through the Egyptian desert, around the foot of Kilimanjaro, and deep into the East African savannah. It follows the tracks of an artist whose swift and skilful hand was able to document Africa’s fascinating wildlife. The thirty-two drawings and three paintings featured in this exhibition are also a vivid testament to Kuhnert’s astonishing mastery of technique and eye for detail. By repeatedly sketching the same animals from a variety of perspectives and in a range of settings, Kuhnert demonstrates an almost uncanny ability to capture on paper the very essence of his extraordinary subjects.
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