Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Dürer Comes to DC

I have had a thing for the German artist Albrecht Dürer ever since I took a German history class in college and for some reason, became enamored with him. It was one of the first classes that I remember being really passionate about. I wrote a paper about Dürer for that class that my history professor loved and he actually had it published in some obscure history journal. So when a new exhibit of Dürer's works from the Albertina in Vienna came to the National Gallery (it opened last weekend), I was pretty excited to see it. So on Sunday morning Walt and I went downtown to the National Gallery and first listened to a lecture about Dürer by one of the museum's curators of prints and drawings,  and then took a leisurely walk around the exhibit.  Dürer was  best known for his woodcuts and engravings, as well as his watercolors and realistic drawings of animals, birds, flowers, and grasses.  His focus on nature and his observation of the world around him is what really draws me to his work.

I couldn't take pictures inside the exhibit, so I have copied images of some of his most famous works. I have always loved this watercolor of cowslips (primroses).

Tuft of Cowslip, 1526

Probably his most recognizable work is Praying Hands, a drawing done in pen and ink, with a technique called chiaroscuro.

Praying Hands, pen and ink, 1509
Another of Dürer's masterpieces is Great Piece of Turf, below. This is one of his most famous watercolors, and the picture of wildflowers, grasses, and weeds is "filled with light and space, creating a scene balanced between scientific observation and artistic poetry." Painted in 1503, it is considered the earliest realistic depiction of plant life. I learned from the exhibit that Dürer was one of the earliest painters of flowers and botanica, and influenced the botanical artists of the seventeenth century. No wonder I like him so much!

Great Piece of Turf, 1503

Hare, 1502

I was so excited to see and think about Dürer again that, when I got home,  I went down to my basement and look what I found in an old box of college stuff.  Believe me, I didn't keep all my papers from college, but I did keep this one because it meant a lot to me. Who knew I would reconnect with Albrecht Dürer, 40 years later!!


  1. Hey Patsi, a cooool blog and I loved the letter from your professor. Durer has always been a favorite of mind. Were you with us when we went to his house in Germany? I cannot remember if you were or not. Biff

  2. Hi Els,
    Quite an impressive grade and comment from your History professor. I'd like to read it myself sometime.
    Happy Anniversary to you and Walt. We missed getting together on Easter this year, but will do it soon.

  3. Happy Anniversary Ellen &Wally. Nice post. I wish we had a trip to DC planned this spring.

  4. Hmm. That A+ grade and those comments could have been added by you, Ellen Davis. You are much more of an intellectual than I realized. I think we are drinking too much when we get together, and we should spend more time on high-minded discussions of art and philosophy and history. Ok, that is not happening at the beach this weekend. Whiskey sour margarita time. But I am impressed.