DÜRER, Albrecht
(b. 1471, Nürnberg, d. 1528, Nürnberg)

Young Hare

Watercolour and gouache on paper, 251 x 226 mm
Graphische Sammlung Albertina, Vienna

Dürer was one of the earliest artists to tackle nature studies and this is one of his finest examples. The frightened hare has cowered down with its ears alert, ready to spring up and flee. Dürer probably painted the hare from both a stuffed model and very careful observation of live animals.

The famous watercolour became very popular and, together with the Praying Hands and Piece of Turf, has been reproduced on a massive scale in the twentieth century. The important new feature of this study is the lifelike depiction of the animal. The hare's fur is depicted in delicate gradations and shades with a variety of brushstrokes. The mullion and transom of a window are reflected in its shining eye - the mirror of the soul. Dürer's ability to give an animal portrait such an individual expression presumably contributed to the considerable imitation of the work.

The Young Hare was first painted in watercolour. Dürer then applied some opaque gouache on top of the watercolour, painting groups of lines which are longer or shorter, thicker or finer, depending on how the fur lies on the animal's body. Finally, he added the white highlights. The shadow helps to give the animal a three-dimensional appearance. Dürer added his monogram and the year in a prominent position, to show that he regarded it as a finished work of art.