Wilhem Kuhnert

Wilhem Kuhnert
Armand Cabrera
Wilhelm Kuhnert was born in Germany on September 28, 1865. At the age of seventeen, he traveled to Berlin to stay with relatives and enroll at the Royal Academy of Berlin. While at the Academy, he studied Animal Painting under Paul Meyerheim and Landscape Painting under Ferdinand Bellerman. Although considerable attention was paid to studying anatomy, the students would sketch captive animals in a zoo and then make formal paintings in their studio—making up the environments from the artists’ imagination. Kuhnert decided to change this. After seeing some African animals at a fair, the young artist vowed to travel to Africa and paint animals in their native habitat.

Upon leaving the Royal Academy, he acquired a studio in Berlin. While Kuhnert was sketching at the Berlin Zoo, he was introduced to Hans Meyer, the first European to climb Kilimanjaro. Meyer was impressed with Kuhnert’s ability and promised the young artist the chance to illustrate his next book. Kuhnert told Meyer of his goal of traveling to Africa to paint the animals in their natural settings. Meyer suggested he travel to East Africa and even gave Kuhnert his safari equipment.

Good to his word, Meyer commissioned Kuhnert to illustrate Brehms Tierbuilder, a dictionary of animals from around the world. With the proceeds from the book, Kuhnert traveled to Africa in 1891.

At that time, the East African Colony was a vast, unexplored territory for most Germans. Kuhnert traveled the only way available—accompanied by a score of men to act as guides and carry the hundreds of pounds of gear and supplies needed for such a journey. A year later, he returned to Germany with dozens of paintings, sketches and drawings of the African animals, people and places.
In 1893, Kuhnert’s paintings went on display at the Berliner Art Exhibition and he took the Medal of Honor. The public responded to his truthful depictions of the great continent. At only 28 years of age, Kuhnert’s success seemed assured.

He married in 1894 and moved to a larger studio. The attraction of Africa could not keep him home, so in 1905, he left his wife and daughter and returned to what he called “The Promised Land”. After a year on the continent, rather than returning home, he traveled to Ceylon. Unable to stand his long absences, his wife left him in 1907. Kuhnert finally returned to Germany in 1908.

He returned to Africa once more in 1911. Two years later, he remarried. In 1920, Kuhnert published two books on African Wildlife—“Im Lande Meiner Modelle” (in the Land of My Model) and “Mein Tierre” (My Animals). He died February 11, 1926 at the age of 60—five months after his second wife had passed away.

It is believed Kuhnert’s body of work totaled 5,500 paintings—primarily animals, but also portraits and landscapes. Today, there are less than a thousand known works in existence. The rest of his paintings were destroyed or lost in World War II.


The Animal Art of Wilhelm KuhnertTerry Weiland
Live Oak press 1995


Wilhelm Kuhnert’s Achievements can be measured by more than just aesthetics. His Greatest merit was that he was the first artist to paint wild animals in their natural habitat. ~Fritz Meyer-Schoenbrunn in his introduction to Kuhnert’s second book, Meine Tiere (My Animals)

Portrait of Maquoketa Rose Frantzen

A Review
by Armand Cabrera

Rose Frantzen’s show is a stunning tour de force of alla prima portrait painting. One hundred and eighty 12×12 portraits painted on what looks like half inch panels which are not framed. Each portrait was painted in four or five hours from life. Anyone willing to take the time to sit for her was accepted.

What emerges besides the individual personalities is a sensitive group portrait of a town. You begin to get the sense of a relatively small community (population 5917). Frantzen’s ability to record the subtleties of each person’s skin tones is amazing. Each portrait captures a moment in time with the sitter, without excessive flattery.

When you think of what it would take to paint 180 portraits from life in a year’s time you understand the power of her accomplishment. Now add to that the level of quality of these paintings and you realize you are standing before something special. This woman is truly one of the best painters in the country at this time. Her abilities are formidable, combining broad facile brushwork with a beautiful color sense and keen eye for values.

If you are living in the Mid-Atlantic Area, or have the means to travel here from farther away, this is a chance to see a living painters work as accomplished as Sargent or Beaux. The show is on display at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery until July 5 2010, don’t miss it. The show is accompanied by a hardcover catalog which has faithfully captured the paintings.

All images in this review are by Rose Frantzen the copyrights are held by her.

Peder Monsted

by Armand Cabrera

Peder Mork Monsted was born in 1859 in Denmark. At 16 he enrolled in the Academy at Copenhagen where he studied under Andries Fritz and Julius Exner . After Monsted left the academy at the age of twenty he studied with Peder Severin Kroyer in his studio and later Adolphe Bouguereau in Paris. He travelled extensively through Europe and North Africa. Although Monsted worked in an academic style, his paintings have a keen sense of light, most likely helped by his outdoor sketches. He died in 1941 at the age of 82.

One look at his work and you can see why he was considered the best landscape painter of his day in Denmark. While some of his genre paintings with figures fall into sugary clichés, the quality of his landscapes are untouchable. He was especially adept at depicting water and forest interiors.

I have little information on him beyond these few scraps from galleries and auction catalogs with his work. As far as I know there is no monograph on him.

I became aware of his work in the early 90’s though gallery ads in magazines and was lucky enough to have a local gallery that carried his work in Marin county where I lived at the time. What is missed in these reproductions is the scale of the paintings. The ones I saw were large- five or six feet across in most cases and they just glowed with that ambient light that anyone who has taken a walk through a forest is familiar with. The paint handling is controlled but the details are still suggested. He was a master at composing the complexities of a forest interior into an organized and believable design. His control of color and value is exquisite. I hope a museum will mount a show and produce a color catalog on this fine artist soon; he deserves it.