Carbon Beach Malibu by Manfred H. Kuhnert, California Impressionist

Carbon Beach Malibu is a bold contemporary work of California Impressionism. From the hand of visionary Laguna Beach artist Manfred H. Kuhnert, the Californian ‘en plein-air’ painting tradition continues. Typical of that tradition is the coastal landscape and fittingly a genre that is among Kuhnert’s most desired subjects. Here, an elevated view of Malibu’s Carbon Beach is painted in a manner that evokes a familiar sense of the Mediterranean through a stylistic lineage from French Impressionism. Warm, earthy tones capture the Southern California setting, and a sensation of sunbaked Pacific heat completes the local inflection.
Among the most engaging qualities in this painting is the careful composition around contrasting tones - between the earthy reddish qualities of the Malibu clay cliffs and the luminous blues and whites of the Pacific. Typical of Kuhnert’s practice is the heavy application of paint. His strokes modulate loosely throughout the image from generous and painterly moments when rendering the noisy, boisterous action of the ocean to a finer, much more delicate detail in the lines of the shoreline architecture. That careful approach to the urban setting in Carbon Beach Malibu perfectly captures the idea of Malibu as California’s beach city.
Kuhnert’s composition varies tone in vertical bands as we read the image from left to right. Emerging from the architectural shadows, we move towards the light, centered around the waves crashing on the beach before giving way to the dark and, again, shadowy regions of the deep blue sea. That progression is amplified in the sophisticated use of perspective, with the sky and ocean merging into a single entity as the land tapers away into the horizon. In Kuhnert’s hand, the effect is one of motion and energy, allowing the viewer to read the image in a motion that takes you out to sea and then pulled back to shore again and again. That circular motion echoes the ebb and flow of the Pacific at work.

Tara Hotchkis, Co-Founder Hotchkis Gallery