12/19/2013

A World in a Grain of Sand: Albrecht Dürer

Albrecht Dürer (German, 1471-1528) is generally considered the greatest artist of the Northern Renaissance. His vast output includes altarpieces, religious paintings and woodcuts, copper engravings and many portraits and self-portraits. He also produced many relatively modest studies of small plants and animals, birds and insects.

I found widely varying dates for these images (and some of the dates were at least a decade after Dürer's death) and no sizes, so I'm only giving the information that seemed most dependable.

Three Studies of a Tree Bullfinch watercolor  

 Two Squirrels watercolor  

 A Young Hare watercolour and bodycolour on a cream wash 25.1 x 22.6 cm. 1502

 Iris 

 The Great Piece of Turf watercolor and gouache on paper 16 1/8" x 12 5/8" 1503

 Study of a Lily 1526

Stag Beetle

Peonies watercolor c. 1500


Like other northern artists, it seems like the more detail Dürer could cram into a painting, the happier he was. He painted these small plants and living creatures with both scientific precision and a reverential attitude. The surface detail in the well-known A Young Hare is simply astounding, but so is his communication of his intense reverence for this little animal. It appears that Dürer, a religious man, saw evidence of the mind of God in every living thing. 

I often wonder why some art movements emphasize precision and detail, while others seem much more open ended, so much more interested in the effects of light than in the identity of the subject. Of course there isn't one answer to that, and the answers are anything but simple. 

Why has God given me such magnificent talent? It is a curse as well as a great blessing.
Albrecht Durer


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