12/22/2013

A World in a Grain of Sand: Hans Hoffmann

Hans Hoffmann (German, c. 1530- 1591/92) is best known for his works in the style of Albrecht Dürer. Hoffmann was the most highly regarded participant in the "Dürer Renaissance", which took place about 40 years after Dürer's death in 1528. Although Dürer had a wide range of subject matter, Hoffman chose to focus his imitations on his small watercolor studies of plants and animals.

As with Dürer, we see a mind-bending attention to surface detail, but instead of studying his subjects with objectivity, Hoffman tends to humanize his animals. I almost think they'd make perfect storybook characters. A Wild Boar Piglet is completely charming, and seems like a cute furry toddler.  I can imagine this young piglet is waiting a little nervously for Mom to get back from a trip to the village store, or her chat with friends.


 
 A Wild Boar Piglet watercolor and gouache on vellum
11.8" × 17.9" 1578

Hare watercolor on parchment
 32.5 x 25.6 cm. 1528


 Flowers and Beetles gouache with white chalk over black chalk on vellum
12 5/8" x 15 1/4" 1582

 Crane Fly Watercolor 
49 x 57cm 1575–80

A Hedgehog watercolor and gouache on parchment 
7 7/8" x 11 3/4" before 1584

 A Hedgehog (detail)

You can especially see the imitation of Dürer's work in Hare, but see the differences as well. The observation isn't quite so intense- some of the fur hairs are stylized, and there is a sweetness that makes you want to reach out and stroke its paw or ears instead of just stare in amazement.

A Hedgehog seems like another storybook character, right out of Wind in the Willows
"The Wild Wood is pretty well populated by now; with all the usual lot, good, bad, and indifferent--I name no names. It takes all sorts to make a world."
- Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

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