This watercolor paintings, Dürer’s “Young Hare” (or in German, Feldhase), is one of my all-time favorite pieces of art. Painted in 1502, this image is iconic for its insane level of detail. Can you believe that picture is only approximately eight inches wide? Yet somehow, Dürer, that master of precision, was able to create a lifelike image, complete with hair that goes this way and that, and lovely golden undertones that gives the wild rabbit warm vibes.
Let’s get a bit closer: That bunny looks a little mean, if I’m being totally honest. Or perhaps mean isn’t the right word—feral. Wild. But still, I would love to stroke its fur. (I’ve thought more than once about getting a tattoo of this image, since I love it so much… but I don’t think there is any way the detail would stay intact, particularly since I’m so bad at using sunscreen.)
Dürer was a German artist working during the 1500’s, and he was incredibly prolific. He is known for his woodcuts and watercolors. He did quote a few botanical studies and sketches, but even when he was just sketching, he put so much thought and care into every image that they almost feel like finished pieces. To modern eyes, his grasp of biology is a bit wanting, but at the time, his work was revolutionary. He was part of the German Renaissance movement, and his artistic travels took him to other centers of art around Europe, like Italy and the Netherlands. True to form, I have always preferred the northern Renaissance masters to the Italian—perhaps it’s because I’m German, or maybe it’s because they don’t tend to be quite as religious in nature (Jesus and Mary, I must admit, bore me visually). While he did quite a bit of work in the Biblical genre, his hare depictions of the natural world form a huge part of his scientific and cultural legacy.
Dürer’s painting, “Great Piece of Turf,” is one of the earliest works of art that accurately represents the different species of plant. He was clearly an amazing observer of life, and possessed an almost scientific devotion to accuracy. However, I happen to prefer his “Tuft of Grass,” simply because it’s a bit looser, shows a little bit more joy.