America's Wildlife Illustrator

Applauded for his attention to detail, sense of subject, and compelling use of composition, Robert "Bob" Kuhn is known as one of the most prolific American wildlife artists - in his time and to this day.

"Attacking the Buffalo" color lithograph

Born in Buffalo, New York in 1920, Kuhn took an interest in art from an early age. He went on to attend the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn NY to pursue commercial art, where he focused on design, anatomy, and life drawing. His detailed paintings depicting wildlife in motion set him apart from other artists of the time, and he quickly became one of the most popular nature illustrators in the country. By the age of 25, he had already sold several covers to Outdoor Life and Sports Afield magazines. From the 1940s to the 1960s, Kuhn employed steady work, interrupted briefly only by his military service for World War II.


As an avid traveler, Kuhn drew inspiration from his real-life global expeditions, namely across the continent of Africa. Much of his early work consisted of African wildlife illustrations, often commissioned for magazines, books, and advertisements. He spent time familiarizing himself with much of North America as well, which became the focus of his work later in his career. He was also known to frequent the museum and zoo when not abroad, quoted as saying “You cannot paint things that catch the character of a critter if you don’t know the critter.” His family and friends knew him as an avid outdoorsman who enjoyed fishing, hunting, and being surrounded by nature.


In 1970 Kuhn shifted to gallery work, leaving what he referred to as ‘the rigid structure of illustration’ behind. His subject matter also shifted, with a new focus on North American wildlife as he traveled less, opting for the easel. In 1998, he was named the Wildlife Painter of the Year by the Friends of Western Art in Tucson, AZ. Wildlife Art also labeled Kuhn as "one of the last direct descendants from the Golden Age of Illustration," which is described as the period that produced some of the continent's most competent realist painters.

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