At the Albertina Museum in Austria, a rabbit is probably one of the most famous rabbits in Western art and the one painted by Albrecht Durer. One can wonder why the water-colored art piece, smaller than an A4 size, is honored to be considered a masterpiece. Still, it is also wondering how the artist can describe a live animal with this level of sophistication.
Durer, born in Nuremberg, Germany, always possessed a clear sense of himself, as proven by his portraits from early in his teenage years. When he returned from Italy at the age of 24 to his hometown, Durer started to run his workshop, and he soon became famous for his exceptional talent in painting. In this work, painted when he was 31, a brown rabbit sits calmly with its paws together. Its long and large ears point up high, and the fur in the neck, body and hind legs are brushed in different directions. The description is so vividly realistic, like a work of a camera photo. Rabbits represent various meanings in different cultures. In the Western world, it symbolizes fertility due to its strong reproduction traits.
The title of this painting in Germany is “Fledhase,” which is a hare. How was it possible to draw a wild animal with such a sophisticated touch? Perhaps he would have caught one and put it in his workshop, observing while painting, as one can assume from the window frame reflected in the eyes of the rabbit or shadows on the floor. At the bottom of the painting, a monogram replacing Durer’s signature and the year of the production are recorded. This means the watercolor piece is an independent work, not a work of practice.
The artist seemed to attempt to convey his wish to breed more works while showing his outstanding skill with the painting of a rabbit. Durer’s works since this have been copied with popularity, earning him international fame.
Durer must have observed the rabbit up close for a long time. Observation represents interest. One can observe for a long time when one is interested. Interest means love. This ordinary rabbit became a center for a masterpiece, thanks to the love for life and the power of long-term observation. Perhaps that is the message of this work. All lives are precious.