KING OF THE ANIMALS. WILHELM KUHNERT AND THE IMAGE OF AFRICA

OCTOBER 25, 2018 – JANUARY 27, 2019

Wilhelm Kuhnert (1865–1926) shaped the concept of Africa in Europe and in the United States more than any other painter of his time. In the late 19th and early 20th century, he was one of the first European artists to set out on a number of journeys to the former colony of German East Africa, which at that time was still largely unexplored. The drawings and oil sketches of the flora and fauna in the region that he made during these trips served as references for monumental paintings that he later produced in his studio in Berlin. Kuhnert exhibited his works internationally with great success, consequently becoming the leading interpreter of African wildlife.

Wilhelm Kuhnert, Der Jäger mit der Strecke, 1915, oil on canvas, 122.7 x 199 cm, private collection, photo: Marc Richter

The Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt is presenting the first comprehensive retrospective on the life and work of the artist Wilhelm Kuhnert.

From October 25, 2018 to January 27, 2019, the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt is presenting the first major retrospective on the life and work of the artist with some 120 works. Besides studies and paintings from European and American museums, private collections, and Kuhnert’s estate, the exhibition unites a large number of the artist’s printed and commercial graphic works and publications.

Wilhelm Kuhnert, Elefanten, 1917, oil on canvas, 121.9 × 218.4 cm, JKM Collection®, National Museum of Wildlife Art

KING OF THE ANIMALS. WILHELM KUHNERT AND THE IMAGE OF AFRICA

24.10.2018 | Wilhelm Kuhnert (1865–1926) shaped the concept of Africa in Europe and in the United States more than any other painter of his time. In the late 19th and early 20th century, he was one of the first European artists to set out on a number of journeys to the colony of German East Africa, which at that time was still largely unexplored. The drawings and oil sketches of the flora and fauna in the region that he made during these trips served as references for monumental paintings that he later produced in his studio in Berlin. Kuhnert exhibited his works internationally with great success, consequently becoming the leading interpreter of African wildlife. From October 25, 2018 to January 27, 2019, the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt is presenting the first major retrospective on the life and work of the artist with some 120 works. Besides studies and paintings from European and American museums, private collections, and Kuhnert’s estate, the exhibition unites a large number of the artist’s printed and commercial graphic works and publications.

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WALL PANELS OF THE EXHIBITION “KING OF THE ANIMALS. WILHELM KUHNERT AND THE IMAGE OF AFRICA”

19.11.2018 | Like almost no other painter of his day, Wilhelm Kuhnert (1865–1926) defined the Western conception of Africa and African nature in the colonial era. He was one of the very first European artists to travel to the colony of German East Africa (present-day Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, and part of Mozambique) around 1900. There, he produced countless sketches in pencil and oil recording the animal kingdom, but also capturing the landscape. These detailed studies served Kuhnert as the basis for the hundreds of monumental paintings he produced in his Berlin studio after returning to Germany. With them, he familiarized the Western public with the world of African animals for the first time. Yet Kuhnert was not only a painter, but also a graphic designer and author. As a result, his works reached a great many people through numerous books such as Brehms Tierleben, on school wall posters as well as on chocolate packaging for the company Stollwerck. "King of the Animals. Wilhelm Kuhnert and the Image of Africa" sheds light on his oeuvre both in the context of art history, the history of the natural sciences and above all against the backdrop of German colonial history, without which his art is quite inconceivable. Kuhnert benefited from colonialism on two accounts: While traveling through the colony of German East Africa he relied on the colonial infrastructure, such as routes, military and missionary stations. By advertising the colonies in newspapers and colonial exhibitions in Germany, a market was created for his paintings. On the eve of World War I, Kuhnert’s depictions offered the Western viewer a free space for associations steeped in the romanticism of nature and the exotic. In reducing the continent to wildlife and landscape, Kuhnert painted a picture of Africa that prevails to this day and needs to be discussed critically.

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Film of the Exhibition

In addi­tion to the exhi­bi­tion exten­sive video content was produced. We are pleased to make this mate­rial avail­able to you free of charge for your current edito­rial reporting. We can also offer you compre­hen­sive footage mate­rial in HD quality for your own produc­tions. Please contact us with your request.

KING OF THE ANIMALS. WILHELM KUHNERT AND THE IMAGE OF AFRICA, exhibition view, © Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, 2018, Photo: Norbert Miguletz

KING OF THE ANIMALS. WILHELM KUHNERT AND THE IMAGE OF AFRICA, exhibition view, © Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, 2018, Photo: Norbert Miguletz

KING OF THE ANIMALS. WILHELM KUHNERT AND THE IMAGE OF AFRICA, exhibition view, © Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, 2018, Photo: Norbert Miguletz

KING OF THE ANIMALS. WILHELM KUHNERT AND THE IMAGE OF AFRICA, exhibition view, © Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, 2018, Photo: Norbert Miguletz

KING OF THE ANIMALS. WILHELM KUHNERT AND THE IMAGE OF AFRICA, exhibition view, © Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, 2018, Photo: Norbert Miguletz

Wilhelm Kuhnert, Lion, n.d., Oil on canvas, 165.1 × 327.6 cm, Fort Worth Zoological Association, Texas, USA, Photo: Jeremy Enlow

Wilhelm Kuhnert, Winding Zebra, n.d., oil on canvas, 51.2 × 75.3 cm, private collection, photo: Jens Weyers

Wilhelm Kuhnert, Elephants, 1917, oil on canvas, 121.9 × 218.4 cm, JKM Collection®, National Museum of Wildlife Art, Jackson, Wyoming, USA

Wilhelm Kuhnert, Warriors on the Path in Front of Mount Kibo, 1917, oil on canvas, 100 × 163 cm, Courtesy Kunst-Kompetenz Petra Kern, Heidelberg

Giraffe, Collectible trading cards, after originals by Wilhelm Kuhnert, from Stollwerck collector’s album no. 6: Stollwerck’s Tierreich, 1903–4, color autotype, 4.8 × 9.2 cm, Rheinisch-Westfälisches Wirtschaftsarchiv zu Köln

Wilhelm Kuhnert, Landscape by the Ruvu, 1905, oil on canvas, 38.5 × 64.3 cm, private collection, photo: Jens Weyers

Wilhelm Kuhnert, The Haul (Self-Portrait), 1915, oil on canvas, 122.7 × 199 cm, private collection, photo: Marc Richter

Wilhelm Kuhnert, Recumbent Rhinoceros, n.d., pencil, 25.7 × 32.3 cm, private collection, photo: Jens Weyers

Wilhelm Kuhnert, A Suspicious Noise, n.d., oil on canvas, 37 × 53 cm, private collection, photo: Jens Weyers

Wilhelm Kuhnert, Head of a Lion in Profile, n.d., oil on canvas, 87 × 101.5 cm, private collection, photo: Jens Weyers

Wilhelm Kuhnert, The Battle of Mahenge, n.d., oil on canvas, 30 × 60 cm, Sammlung Philipp Spangenberg, photo: Jens Nober

Wilhelm Kuhnert, Askari, 1906, oil on canvas, 49.4 × 36 cm, private collection, photo: Jens Weyers

Wilhelm Kuhnert, Megalomania, n.d., watercolor, 15.2 × 22 cm, private collection, photo: Jens Weyers

Wilhelm Kuhnert, African Lions, ca. 1911, oil on canvas, 162.6 × 127 cm, JKM Collection®, National Museum of Wildlife Art, Jackson, Wyoming, USA

Wilhelm Kuhnert painting, September 9, 1911, © Estate Wilhelm Kuhnert

Wilhelm Kuhnert in his atelier, n.d., © Estate Wilhelm Kuhnert

Dr. Philipp Demandt, Curator of the exhibition "King of the Animals. Wilhelm Kuhnert and the Image of Africa", © Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, photo: Norbert Miguletz

Dr. Ilka Voermann, Curator of the exhibition "King of the Animals. Wilhelm Kuhnert and the Image of Africa", © Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, photo: Gaby Gerster

CATALOG OF THE EXHIBITION

Edited by Philipp Demandt and Ilka Voermann. With a foreword by Philipp Demandt and contributions by Felicitas Becker, Kathleen Chapman, Philipp Demandt, Alexander Gall, Bernhard Gissibl, Miriam Oesterreich, and Ilka Voermann.