Wilhelm Kuhnert remains one of the greatest painters of wild animals. Set amidst their natural habitat and portrayed with a profound understanding of their behaviour, his animal paintings were conditioned by the 19th century trends of colonialism and realism. Kuhnert had trained at the Berlin Academy with Meyerheim and Friese. The sale of reproductions of his paintings financed his first visit to Africa in 1891. He made further trips to the German and English colonial territories in South and East Africa in 1905 and 1911-12. These expeditions were made at great personal risk, unaccompanied, except by native guides.
Lions were a favourite subject for Kuhnert who must have admired them not only as an artist but also as a sportsman. Known as ferocious and noble creatures, a full-sized South African male lion could grow to over 10 feet in length. Lions lived chiefly in the sandy plains and rocky outcrops which were interspersed with dense thorn tickets, low bushes and tall rank grass and reeds from which they hunted the buffalo, antelope, zebra, giraffe (and even the young elephant and rhinoceros) that lived there.
Kuhnert had an extremely productive and successful career. He first won international recognition when he was awarded a gold medal at the World Exhibition at St. Louis in 1904. He was awarded the Colonial Memorial Coin by Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1912, and the Knights Cross of the Royal Order of the Polar Star by the King of Sweden in 1917.