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Bob Kuhn (1920 – 2007)

Bob Kuhn, a dear friend of mine and the reigning giant in the artistic depiction of wildlife, passed away on October1, 2007.

Bob Kuhn was the greatest wildlife painter of our time. With his passing, the art world lost more knowledge of that particular genre than exists in all of the other living wildlife artists combined.

It was fantasy master Frank Frazetta who introduced me to Bob’s work. I had asked Frank who his favorite animal artists were. He replied Bob Kuhn and Antoine Louis Barye. I was quite familiar with Barye’s sculptures but had only vaguely heard of Bob Kuhn. I promptly did my homework and was happily rewarded and introduced to a world of first class paintings that exhibited astounding draftsmanship, thrilling original color and impeccable design.

Bob’s work exhibited an impressionistic freedom, energy and gutsy looseness that was completely unlike the work of the vast majority of other wildlife painters. With a profound accumulation of knowledge gained from decades of intensive zoo and outdoor wildlife painting under the guidance of friends and mentors like Paul Bransom and Robert Lougheed, Bob could reveal more about the nature of an animal’s fur with a quick scumble than any of the legion of wildlife painters could who spent hours laboring over the depiction of every hair.

I first met Bob when I enrolled in his final wildlife painting workshop in Loveland, Colorado. I helped him to structure the workshop and we became fast friends. I loved the dry, sparkling wit that laced his conversations. Bob was generous with his knowledge and helpful to everyone. Like Frazetta, Bob’s only expression of disdain was for his imitators.

About a year after the workshop, Bob, a handful of the workshop members and I got together and plein air painted out in Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon, Arizona. I recall him sketching a fox on a napkin during one of our dinners together in Oak Creek. It looked as if he had drawn it from life.

After Sedona, schedules permitting, Bob and I would always try to get together when either of us was in the other’s state. I dedicated my first collection of animal drawings to Bob. Over the years I tracked down and built a complete collection of every single outdoors magazine (Field & Stream, Outdoor Life, Argosy, etc.) for which Bob had done illustrations. These magazines provided a fascinating glimpse into Bob’s rapid development from illustrator to fine artist, or “easel painter” as he called it.

The last time I saw Bob was when I drove up to Santa Barbara to hear him speak at the opening celebration of a one man exhibition of his in Los Olivos. He insisted I sit next to him; we had the greatest time talking about art and animals and laughing about life in general. I told him I was planning a trip to Alaska and asked him what he liked best about Alaska, hoping to glean some insider scraps of wisdom in regards to Alaskan wildlife painting.

“THE FISHING!” he exclaimed, his eyes twinkling with pure delight.

The passing of Bob Kuhn leaves a huge hole in the world of art that I doubt will ever be filled; and an even bigger hole in the hearts of those of us who were lucky enough to know him.

6 thoughts on “Bob Kuhn (1920 – 2007)

  1. Hello,
    What a wonderful write-up on Bob Kuhn. We recently came across a ’69 Remington zippered case entitled and containing a “Portfolio of American Waterfowl Hunting prints by Bob Kuhn”. A relative of ours recently passed away and the zippered portfolio was among his gun collection and other hunting memorabelia. The prints are in excellent condition. We aren’t sure how valuable they are, whether we should save them for a grandchild, or try to sell them (the relative’s wife is in poor health). Maybe you could offer a suggestion? Thank you.

  2. Have you sold prints?I am looking for a particular Bob Kuhn print entiled
    “First Time Around”. May be interested in the others also.

  3. Well I was thinking about finding the market value and selling a set of Mr. Kuhn’s prints titled “The Remington Collection of Big Game” that includes nine prints and the folder all in great condition. However, after reading the above article, I think that I will keep them and feel fortunate to possess such a legends work! In the mean time if anyone has any specific knowledge of the collection – it would be appreciated.

    Thank you

  4. Being an avid outdoorsman myself, enjoying the love of both hunting and fishing, I feel a special connection with Bob Kuhn. It was his love of the outdoors and animals, that allowed him to have such an intricate eye and hand for the detail, exhibited in his works. My grandfather owned a sporting goods store in Ozone Park, NY back in the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s. Because he was a Remington dealer, he was given many of the promotional prints to display in his store. As a child, all the way up until recently, I admired a specific work that was thumbtacked into the inside mahogany of my grandfather’s gun cabinet. Titled “The Big Moment”, is a beautiful scene depicting a snow covered forest, with a Whitetail Buck, chasing a pair of doe’s, while in the background, a hunter stands behind a tree, with his rifle raised, ready to take the shot and Buck of a lifetime. I can’t help but feel in that hunter, was represented my grandfather, and myself as well as the spirit of the outdoors, the thrill of the hunt, and the admiration, and appreciation of nature. One would have to spend the countless hours in the woods, to truly understand. In the article above, is mentioned Bob Kuhn’s love of fishing, and now I know it was his true love of such beauty that made it so easy for him to capture such perfection in every still moment of expression. I recently framed that picture and enjoy it on my studio/office wall. I’ve also begun a collection of Bob Kuhn prints that I feel will allow me to better understand the man, and enjoy his keen eye for perfection and expression.

  5. I had the honor of guiding Bob Kuhn, along with his son, during their stay at Iliaska Lodge in Iliamna Alaska, during the 2000 fishing season. On one of our fishing trips we were flown to a tributary where there were plenty of big wild rainbow trout and also bears. Big Alaska brown bears. Bob had a stated goal for the day: Catch a big trout, and get some good bear pictures. He ended up catching an almost ten pound rainbow trout. And then we went walking among the bears for pictures. Bob did not use a telephoto lens, so we were getting very close to the bears. too close. I had to hold onto Bob’s jacket to keep him from walking right up to the biggest bear there. Scary! But he got his pictures. They were wonderful fishermen. Bob was a beautiful man. Gratitude.

  6. My mother, Mary Casey McCuskey was a cousin of Bob Kuhn. I met him only once when I was a young teenager – he drew a picture of his German shepherd for me. Now that I am retired, I enjoy painting animals – especially from my pictures of wildlife in east Africa where I studied animal behavior in the 1970’s.

    It’s good to hear that he was a kind friend as well as fisherman and wildlife admirer. Wish I had known him as an adult.

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