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National Museum of Wildlife Art announces Bob Kuhn Retrospective

A lifelong student of drawing, the late great wildlife artist Bob Kuhn left behind more than 5,000 studies in his studio after his death in 2007. Now a new retrospective, “Bob Kuhn: Drawing on Instinct,” opening May 10, 2012 at the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson Hole, Wyo., mines that amazing record dating back to his youthful sketching at the Buffalo Zoo to explore the artistic process behind Kuhn’s masterful work. The exhibition will be on display at the museum through August 19, 2012, and then travel to the National Sporting Library and Museum in Middleburg, Virginia, the Sam Noble Museum at the University of Oklahoma, and the Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block.

Robert Kuhn, Flat Out, 1985. Acrylic on Board. 14 x 18 inches. JKM Collection®, National Museum of Wildlife Art

After illustrator Paul Bransom advised a young Kuhn to “keep going to the zoo and keep drawing” and “When you look at an animal, look at it as though you may never see it again,” Kuhn became an inveterate sketcher, sketching at breakfast, while watching television, or whenever else he got a chance. “He drew on artist’s paper, check stubs, or on any available scrap,” says National Museum of Wildlife Art Curator of Art Adam Harris, who explains that the “Drawing on Instinct” exhibition focuses both on a selection of masterpieces from Kuhn’s oeuvre and, with equal prominence, the sketches that prepared Kuhn to create the final works.

“Seeing this variety of material together – from the early Buffalo Zoo drawings to landscape studies to the conté gesture sketches from the apex of his drawing power – gives visitors a robust sense of the process behind Kuhn’s masterpieces,” says Harris.

The exhibition is accompanied by a book, also titled Bob Kuhn: Drawing on Instinct, published by the University of Oklahoma Press. Both an exhibition catalogue and a stand-alone title offering a timely perspective on Kuhn’s career, the book includes appreciations by Kuhn contemporaries Howard Terpning, George Carlson, Ken Carlson, George McLean, Kent Ullberg, and Ken Bunn, as well as an introduction and biography by Harris, scholarly essays, and more than 300 illustrations.

A member of the Museums West consortium and accredited by the American Association of Museums, the National Museum of Wildlife Art of the United States provides an exciting calendar of exhibitions from its permanent collection and changing exhibitions from around the globe. A complete schedule of museum exhibitions and events is available online at

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