Sunset at Woods Cove, Laguna Beach, Manfred H. Kuhnert

Sunset at Woods Cove, Laguna Beach 

Manfred H. Kuhnert's portfolio includes many landscapes of his beloved Laguna Beach, California, where he and his wife, Anna Flynn Kuhnert, maintained an eponymous gallery for an impressive 34 years. 

One of these paintings is Sunset at Woods Cove, Laguna Beach, a vibrant work in which Kuhnert recreates the rocky cliffs meeting the water's edge at the picturesque location. Rock formations topped with greenery dominate the left side of the painting while the ebb and flow of the ocean tide fill the right. Above all of this sits an incredibly vivid and almost fiery sky, complete with a blazing sun that immediately draws the eye in. Cool greens, soothing blues, warm ambers, and rich purples fill the canvas, and intense orange emerges throughout. 

When we look at Sunset at Woods Cove, Laguna Beach, our minds go to the light and vibrant landscapes of Paul Cézanne. There are many qualities in Kuhnert's work that echo the great French Post-Impressionist, who inspired other extremely influential artists like Matisse and Picasso. 
Perhaps the most obvious link is the structural essence of this painting. Cézanne is well-known for making paintings with a structural yet abstract feel, which partly inspired subsequent movements such as Cubism.

We see this dedication to structure in Kuhnert's work, too. Although seemingly gestural and quickly applied, each mark plays a specific role in creating a clear dimension in the seaside landscape. For example, an orange mark collides with a teal block to form an outcropping that expertly achieves specificity, although they are just dabs of paint. The cliffs feel like a jigsaw puzzle of marks that somehow fit together, although realistic perspective eludes the work; this illusion reminds us of Cézanne's famous Mount St. Victoire landscapes, in which he renders the picturesque mountain in blocks of color that maximize dimension while still maintaining a loose feel. 

Additionally, Cézanne and other Post-Impressionists often painted with the underlying visual philosophy that color and form have the same pictorial weight. In this vein, he boldly juxtaposed colors and tones and treated light as its own object. We see this in Sunset at Woods Cove, too; Kuhnert treats the mist of the sea in the same structural way as the outcropping of rock, leveling everything to the same language. It is clear that he values all aspects of a landscape; no part of the painting feels forgotten, and Kuhnert elevates what other painters might overlook. Overall, this painting reveals not only Kuhnert's ability as a skilled colorist but as a passionate person able to translate a landscape into two dimensions while capturing the vividness of real life.

When looking at Sunset at Cove Woods, we don't wonder what season he depicts or what year he was painting. Rather, Kuhnert simply invites us into his interpretation of a moment in his life. He doesn't seem particularly invested in capturing a fleeting moment with painstaking accuracy and instead focuses on the underlying feeling and character of a place. In this way, the painting is timeless and leaves us with a powerful impression of Woods Cove. 

Carey and Tara Hotchkis, Founders, Hotchkis Gallery