A Crocodile in East Africa
  • Wilhelm Kuhnert
  • Oppeln / Silesia 1865 - 1926 Flims / Graubünden
  • A Crocodile in East Africa, 1905
  • Pencil on two attached sheets of paper,
  • signed and dated lower right:
    Wilh. Kuhnert / 23.8. 05. O.Afrika
  • 235 × 464 mm

Wilhelm Kuhnert’s family recognized his talent for drawing but discouraged it to the point that as a sixteen year-old he himself broke free from his commercial apprenticeship to take refuge with relatives in Berlin and make his name as a painter in the big city. In 1883 he won the competition for a scholarship to the Berlin academy, where he received a thorough education from Ferdinand Bellermann and Paul Meyerheim.

Soon he became the most sought-after German animal painter and illustrator, seeking out his subjects, unlike most of his colleagues, in their natural surroundings. For this reason, up until the First World War, Kuhnert would embark time and again on extended and often strenuous journeys within Europe, as well as to Africa, India, and Asia.

In 1891/92, he made his first expedition to East Africa, where the German empire had had its own colony since 1886. He travelled there a second time in 1905, and despite great political tumult, assembled a large stock of studies from nature, including the sheet shown here. He would later use these studies in his illustrations for the fourth edition of the thirteen-volume Brehms Tierleben (“Animal Life”).