Animals in Art - Albrecht Dürer
ALBRECHT DÜRER (1471-1528)
'The Wing of a Blue Roller' 1512 (watercolor and gouache), Albertina Museum, Vienna.
Albrecht Dürer was born in the city of Nuremberg, a lively cultural and commercial center in 15th century Germany. He was the third of eighteen children. Originally taught to draw by his father who was a goldsmith, he seems to have inherited that craft's appreciation of fine detail. Although Dürer became one of the greatest oil painters of the Northern Renaissance, he is equally famous for his exquisite watercolors, engravings and woodcut prints.
Animals were not generally considered to be appropriate subjects for serious art until the eighteenth century when George Stubbs elevated the genre by the sheer quality of his work. Critics felt that the painting of animals was simply a demonstration of technical skill, and as such did not aspire to the creative vision of great art. Almost two centuries before, Albrecht Dürer was one of the first artists to view animals as a subject worthy of attention and he demonstrates this across a range of watercolors and prints that have become hugely popular and frequently reproduced.
'The Wing of a Blue Roller' is one such example of his remarkable drawing ability. It is a beautiful watercolor painting that accurately captures the structure, texture and shimmering color of the bird's feathers. He uses watercolor to delicately blend the soft graduating color of the plumage and overpaints linear detail with gouache (an opaque watercolor) to pick out the jagged edges of the feathers.
Dürer was fascinated by nature as he believed that the study of the natural world could reveal the fundamental truths he was seeking to discover through his art. He wrote, "Nature holds the beautiful, for the artist who has the insight to extract it. Thus, beauty lies even in humble, perhaps ugly things, and the ideal, which bypasses or improves on nature, may not be truly beautiful in the end."