Dandelion Art - Week 6
Updated: Mar 18
Once a week we take a painting, or piece of sculpture, that interests us, tell you a bit about it and hope it sparks something with you and your families. We would love to hear of any recommendations.
You are most likely to see a hare now in early spring when they are behaving excitedly during their mating season . And this – of course – is the origin of the saying, 'mad as a March hare'. For those who don't live in the country and are unlikely to see the real thing, we thought this week we would take a look at Dürer's astonishingly life-like hare, painted over 500 years ago and yet completely timeless.
Young Hare by Albert Dürer
1502, Albertina Vienna
German artist Albrecht Dürer's 'Young Hare' is widely acknowledged as an observational art masterpiece. It is often called by its English title, 'Young Hare', but in fact this hare has been identified as mature and so the German title Feldhase, which translates 'Field Hare', is probably more apt.
Born in Nuremberg, Dürer (1471-1528) was a painter, engraver, print maker, theorist and mathematician. Achieving recognition in his 20s, he was considered one of the greatest Northern Renaissance artists.
The painting dates back to 1502 when Dürer returned to his Nuremberg workshop after his first trip to Italy. The lone hare, still and yet so alert, was painted using both gouache and watercolour – the skill in the execution and its meticulous detail are extraordinary. Dürer is well known for adapting the conventions of shading and in this picture especially. Observe the hare's mottled fur with its dark and light patches and the way its fur points in different directions. There is no backdrop (giving it the picture its timeless quality) and yet the painting is infused with warmth – a golden light strikes the hare on the left side, highlighting the ears, illuminating the fur on the left side and giving expressive sparks of life to the eyes.
How did Dürer capture such a skittish creatures with such rigour? The hare is so life-like that some people think that he sketched wild hares and then filled in the details using a dead specimen. Others think he captured wild hares and painted them in his workshop. Or maybe he had a photographic memory? The reflection of the window frame in the hare's eye is often cited as evidence for the theory that Dürer copied the hare from life in his workshop, but this cross-barred reflection is a technique that he used in other works to add vitality to the eyes of his subjects. Either which way, we can all admire the fastidious eye of this extraordinary artist.
Anya Waddington 15th March 2021