Creating “texture” on the page
Like many other artists in the 15th and 16th centuries – such as Leonardo da Vinci of Italy for example – the German artist Albrecht Dürer was especially fascinated by nature and how it worked. This was a time when newly-discovered scientific evidence and new learning were thrilling to artists and scientists alike. In fact there was far less of a distinction between “scientists” and “artists” than there is today. There were no cameras: artists had to be the observers, recorders, and documenters. They would have to find ways of communicating the precise qualities and textures of nature: of skin, roots and plants, stones, flowing water, fur or hair. They wanted to do this with great accuracy – capturing the subject’s appearance just as it appeared to the eye.
How did Dürer create the texture of the hare’s coat? Dürer’s Hare was painted in 1502. We see this particular hare’s carefully observed fur lies in different directions, and is mottled in colour, lighter and darker in patches. Dürer may have sketched the hare in the field and then filled in the details later by looking closely at a dead hare. He first drew its outline, then laid in washes of brown watercolour as an undercoat. Over that he gradually built up the fur texture, by patiently layering on individual brushstrokes of dark and lighter paints – both in translucent watercolour (that shows colour and light through it) and opaque (thicker) paint. Finally, he painted in details, like the whiskers and the reflection in the eye