Im Morgengrauen (At Dawn)

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Im Morgengrauen (At Dawn)
Im Morgengrauen (At Dawn)
Artist: Kuhnert, WilhelmDate of Birth: 1865-1926
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 30 1/2 x 56 1/4 inches
Signed: Signed lower left
Verso: Signed and titled verso

At dawn—im morgengrauen—a pair of lions is up and about, on the alert, on the hunt before the full light of day shines on their stealth. Kuhnert, who knew these grasslands, this veldt, as well as any European, employs the same tawny palette and brushwork on the grasses as he does on the lions. Another fifty feet back, and we wouldn’t see them at all, apart, perhaps, from the twitch of the male’s black tail.
Born in the city of Oppeln, in eastern Germany (now Poland) in 1865, Wilhelm Kuhnert seemed destined to paint, and, from a very early age, he did. In 1883, he was admitted to the Royal Academy of Arts in Berlin where his instructors, Paul Meyerheim and Ferdinand Bellerman, encouraged students to paint animals and landscapes with an eye toward truthfulness and fidelity, and to paint en plein air, from life, as the Impressionists in France advocated. Three years later, Germany established the colony of German East Africa, which included Mt. Kilimanjaro, the rich game lands around the Rufiji River and parts of Maasailand. To an ambitious wildlife artist and committed hunter like Kuhnert, the call of Africa was strong, and a meeting with Hans Meyer—one of the owners of the Bibliographical Institute of Leipzig and an explorer in his own right—provided Kuhnert with funds and equipment to make the journey, as well as a promise that his paintings would illustrate Meyer’s books on his return. Over the next decade and a half, at the head of long trains of bearers, Wilhelm Kuhnert would venture through the wilds of German East Africa. He would draw and paint people and animals, collect specimens, do battle with Tanganyikan natives rising against their German overlords, and explore areas of the continent that few if any Europeans had ever seen.