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Question
Hi David,
      could you tell me please how masters of wildlife art, such as Durer, went about their work please? What techniques and approaches did they use in their drawings and paintings to capture detail, character, and that feel of realism?
      If photographs were not an option for some of these masters how did they sketch/paint wildlife?
       Are there any websites that discuss their techniques and given demonstrations of their techniques?

Kind Regards

Gary

Answer
Hi from the UK Gary,
Got a day?

I always find it difficult to get into the heads of long dead artists.
After all. they  were the only ones  who really knew, 'bottom line,' how's, why's and where fore's of why they did something!
The balance is speculation, sometimes misguided and opinionated and sometimes down right wrong!

Even so.

Fact is, artists throughout history studied hard and long.
Their apprenticeships were arduous and the taskmasters who taught them, often times, overtly critical and even cruel!

This meant that their observances were devout and the analytical approach to 'drawing' vital to their success.

Particularly our man.

The artist to whom I refer was Albrecht Durer (1471-1528), of Nuremburg, Germany.
So great was his fascination with animals and he took every opportunity to sketch or paint those he saw on his travels.

Perhaps the most famous of his animals is his water colour of a hare but equally fine is his biologically-accurate water colour of a stag beetle which may be used as an example of the objectivity of German art of the Renaissance, so strongly influenced by the Reformation.

Religious symbolism is replaced in Durer's art by realism, and in that realism, animals literally poured from Durer's brushes, as from the Noah's ark.
As you know there are bulls, tigers, lions, snakes, snails and walruses galore. Even a unicorn!
In a single ink drawing ( Virgin With a Multitude of Animals, 1503) there are 13 species — from camels to owls, all biologically accurate.


If you can imagine an 18C  botanist studying flora on a newly found island, he would be recording for posterity with the accuracy of the camera he did not have.
Accuracy being paramount to record the detail for science and humanity. Good thing for him was, the flora and fauna were stationary so we can percieve that easiy.

You will find that there are drawings after drawings for somone like Durer, who was talented beyond belief but also an incredible observer with a camera sharp eye.

I would  suppose that, Like da Vinci, his hero, and others, he would spend hours and hours, religiously  studying the anatomy of dead animals and any live ones he could get a hold of, in whatever circumstances that may be.

There were innumerable private zoos around Europe he would have had privy to at the time, particularly the Royal zoos.

Observation and accuracy were the key for him and he was hungry to learn.
Artists of the time had an infinite amount of time and seldom, other distractions to take them away from their objectives.
No Baywatch sadly in 1490! Beer yes!

For many, Durer's finest effort is his 1495 water colour of a marine crab he secured in Venice. The details and the precision of his observations and skills are therein the most biologically accurate.

This proves a salient point:

Interestingly, it was Durer who wrote in the border of his 1515 woodcut that this native of the Indian Himalayan area is "fast, jolly and cunning."
He went on…..
“Not only must one get close to an animal and study it carefully in its living state to be able to make accurate drawings, but also to know what "jolly" means.”

“To get too close would be folly, not jolly”!



Background & Early Career
Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528).


The son of a Nüremberg goldsmith, Dürer was trained early in the craft of metalwork. Because of his precocious talent, his father agreed to apprentice him at age 15 to the workshop of a Nüremberg painter and woodcut designer. He stayed there for three years before setting off on journeys to other parts of Germany and to Switzerland and the Netherlands. He kept meticulously observed sketchbooks of animal and plant life and landscapes, as well as drawings of figures and objects.
At his death at 57, he had created an estimated 1,200 works including some 100 oil paintings, 107 engravings, 400 woodcuts, 6 etchings, as well as innumerable drawings, sketches, and books.

Great WEB sites for you:

The best by far as it points the way forward with loads of links is this. http://www.artcyclopedia.com/artists/durer_albrecht.html

Next:
http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/durer/

If I can help any more, get to me through my website
Search: FREEMANART

Cheers,
David

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David Freeman

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Art Historian, Fine Art Consultant and author. British School and Barbizon School expert. Biographer of; Ch. Jean Georget - Édouard Frére - Thos Faed - Henry Barraud - Alexander Franz Loemans and many more. Happy to help in any academic or advisory capacity.

Experience

David Freeman is a British Art Historian, a fine author and educationalist with 35 years of experience in the world of fine art to his credit.
He is also an International Fine Art Consultant and the busiest appraiser in North America. David is also the Executive Director and founder of the The Freemanart Consultancy.
Working from bases on both sides of the Atlantic Canada, Germany, the UK and Spain, David tours extensively with the Roadshow.

His personal specialisms include:
The Investigation and Identification of Art Fraud and Counterfeit works.

Much of his time is spent Authenticating Paintings and works of art, concentrating on Forensic and Academic Research and Provenance verification for clients throughout the world

Mr Freeman lectures Internationally to Conferences and at University level throughout North America and has appeared many times on the television.
David Freeman writes extensively on his specialised subject as well as formulating artist biographies.
More information:
Freemanart Web site; http://www.freemanart.ca
He is currently writing a book on the life of eminent Canadian Artist Conyers Barker called, the Horizontal Boy. Hosts the new TV series Treasures that Talk and writing the script of a new Documentary series, Secret Britain.

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