Research point landscapes : Durer Lorrrain and Lowry

Look at and research different artists depictions of landscape-Durer Northern Renaissance, Claude Lorrain and classical proportions, Lowry industrial life landscapes.

Durer and landscapes

Durer 1471-1528-the artist of the Northern Rennaissance,was German in origin (from Nuremberg) but with knowledge and experience of the Italian Rennaissance. He was intially trained in woodcutting and metal engraving. He travelled briefly to Italy in 1494 and again in 1505. His work has immense religious content despite the growing reformation of Catholic values in Germany at the time (via Martin Luther 1483-1546)ref:

Albrecht Dürer, Landscape with a Woodland Pool, a drawing


on line image

This drawing was done in 1496 near Nuremberg. It has a very Gothic feel to it with contrasting lights and darks, dramatic dark clouds which appear slightly windblown, tall imposing trees on the right , trees without tops on the left and centrally a body of water which leads to the horizon. There are no human beings visible. It was drawn in watercolour and is said to be unfinished in the lower right. The tree trunks are depicted by fine dark lines, the grasss and water by thicker strokes of colour with the grass at the front of the water clearly paler against the water -I am unsure how this was done. The image seems to have a curve on the horizon line and the trees on the left lean outward from the more upright trees on the right as though viewed through a convex lens.

The quote on the web page from which the image and details were taken (  state it is a very beautiful and harmonious depiction of restful nature.

I find it quite the opposite. I find most of Durer’s art quite intense and harsh in its contrasting tones and often disturbing, and likewise this depiction talks to me of loneliness, bleakness and perhaps a mesage of destruction.

In contrast I have for the first time come across some of Durer’s watercolours:

View of Kalchreut 1511  ref:

This I like, it is technically and chromatically softer than his engravings. The foreground houses dominate the picture in their light shades of pinks and browns and homely squat feel, almost blocking the view by their side-on positions, but a sweep of paint representing a path takes the eye to the right beyond a dominant dark tree (and perhaps a couple? under the tree) to other houses down a hill. The eye is also taken across the houses to the colourful trees and hills. The houses, trees and hills are outlined by a fine dark line and the hills are painted in subtle rainbow colours. I like the detail in the house on the left which looks in the process of construction and the lovely colours in the mid ground. It seems to have no deeper meaning and no religious connotations. It is evidently North European in the construction of the houses and the colours.

Claude Lorrain 1604-1682

Born in the South of France, he moved to Rome in his early teens and became one of the leading and most copied painters of idealistic landscapes and praise of nature. “The composition of Claude’s landscapes; their stage-like settings with trees which act as repoussoirs (props which lead us into the scene), came to be the standard example from which to study landscape”  ref:

“Regardless of subject, Claude’s focus was always landscape and light, which unified his pictures. Thin, semi-transparent layers of oil paint created extraordinary luminosity, and every element was subordinated to the poetic feeling of the whole” ref:

Claude Lorrain, Landscape with Country Dance, a drawing


This is described on the British Museum website as a brown pen and ink drawing with brown and grey washes. First of note is the composition–two large trees frame the central animals and behind them figures and the images curve into a background consisting of bridges and castle. The foreground of the picture appears to be black or grey (apart from the one animal which links background to foreground by it’s colour)  brown tints dominate as the image fades into the background and areas of white zig zag from front to back giving an impression of light falling on the scene, a light which emanates from the background and casts long shadows.There are relatively large patches of brown or grey and onto these are drawn outlines and details with a dark fine line. The lightest area is the sky on the left, made even lighter by its approximation to the dark tree. The feathery leaves of the trees are a soft bubbling line filled in with shades of brown or grey. The central figures are dancing and in blissful ignorance of a goat which is falling off the cliff –a part of the picture which I find amusing. Are the goats, like the humans  also “playing around”   but with evident consequences-is their a moralistic message in the picture? The image is not as tranquil as many of Lorrain’s pictures probably due to the human and animal activity and amusement. I like the drawing, I dont like the positioning of the people behind the animals -they appear too big and almost standing on the animal’s backs.

Claude Lorrain, A Bank of Trees, a drawing

Italy, about AD 1645-50  ref:

According to the British Museum’s  description of this painting it is done in   ” Black chalk, brown ink, washed red chalk and white heightening are all applied to create a more ‘painterly’ scene, though on blue paper. The emphatic use of chalk, applied like a thick , and the precise chiaroscuro (light and shade) of the trees in particular give the drawing more solidity and natural drama.” ref:,_bank_of_trees.aspx

This is a more romantic picture in that there is no human or animal activity and so peace, but also rich in the manner in which the leaves on the trees have been depicted. The small light, almost speckles of pale colour make the trees look soft and inviting. There are fine lines depicting these clumps of leaves but otherwise no evident dark lines in the drawing apart from a few small tree branches. In front of these light decked leaves is a patch of brown earth also much lighter than the foreground and done in a large patch of  ?smudged colour. At the front of the picture -all turns to shadow with black and dark red heavily applied and patches of lighter areas (not as light as the background) giving form and texture to the tree and bank. Close up leaves and a fallen branch give further interest to the foreground.

Lorraines greater detail and greater filling of the picture frame makes his picture feel more inviting and opulent then that of Durer’s “Landscape with woodland pool ” above. Both artists use the golden section to compose their trees but the one has rich southern plenty and the other scant Northern grimness.

L.S. Lowry (1887-1976) and town scapes

Lowry came from my “neck of the woods” -Northern England, and drew many of the towns that I have known well -some of them at a time when I was young (the 1950s) and could remember -I still dislike Manchester for those memories of post war desolation. I don’t think the people however were quite as depressed as he depicts nor as isolated in their thoughts, at least no more than the present generation who are tied to their computers. I like Lowry for the amusing and over the top social record he has provideed but was shocked when my aunt bought one, wondering how on earth anyone could put something so lacking in colour and grim on their walls-however she was moving to Canada and maybe wanted a reminder of her roots….( Lancastrians like to play up the dark side of their county).

Lowry was born in Manchester, worked as a rent collector and took art lessons and painted in the evenings.

“”Mr Laurence S Lowry has a very interesting and individual outlook. His subjects are Manchester and Lancashire street scenes, interpreted with technical means as yet imperfect, but with real imagination… We hear a great deal nowadays about recovering the simplicity of vision of primitives in art. These pictures are authentically primitive, the real thing not an artificially cultivated likeness to it. The problems of representation are solved not by reference to established conventions, but by sheer determination to express what the artist has felt, whether the result is according to rule or not…” ref: quoting Bernard Taylor of the Guardian

Lowry felt that drawings were as hard to do as painting. He worked the surface of his drawings by smudging, erasing and rubbing the pencil lines on his paper to build the atmosphere of the drawing. He was always doing quick sketches on the spot on whatever paper he had in his pockets.  ref:

Behind Leaf Square  ref:

A large rectangular building with regimental windows is drawn in soft body colour with very little texture almost totally across the page. Small cross hatched shaded people walk across the picture and gather before the doors. Fences dance in front of the building leading the eye this way and that but predominantly to the large door. The outlines and fences are drawn in fine dark line many as just one stroke and all else is coloured in in flat smudged shading without texture or tone, even the people have no shadows.There is a little attempt to depict the light and its direction which merely adds to the atmosphere of foggy Manchester.

By St Phillips Church, Salford  ref:

Another picture drawn very similarly, smudged flat tone for the road and houses (with some visible texture in the two closer houses), line for the railings and the outlines of the buildings, fine lines almost Van Gogh in nature in the hedge on the left and the people depicted dark or light against the background. The most dominant part of the picture being the dark looming Church spire against the featureless grey sky. I can neither like nor dislike as I know it and it rings true(except nowadays it is made even less attractive by lines of cars).

I think out of these three artists, I like Lowry the best –He does not, like Lorraine try to change something to arcadia and by doing so elevate his own importance, and although he has the grimness of Durer he doesnot take it into a drama but just accepts and muses at the Lancastrian’s fate.


Research point “How did Renaissance artists depict animals?”

Leonardo Da Vinci and his drawing of animals

Leonardo da Vinci lived in the fifteenth century in Italy, being born near Florence,1452 and spending much of his life working for the Dukes of Milan.

The world at the time of his life was steeped in occult belief. However, he looked at his world of art from the angle of a scientist, studying the underlying structures of animals and humans through direct scientific and unemotional observation. “(His) preoccupations with the structure of things….made him uninterested in and perhaps unhappy with, the opportunities which Florence in the 1470s held out to artists who could display the warm beauty of the surface of  things” ref:”The Penguin Book of Renaissance” J.H. Plumb ISBN 0 14 00.2216 3


Study of horses  c. 1490  Silverpoint on prepared paper, 250 x 187 mm
Royal Library, Windsor

A horse from the front c.1490  Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)


Study sheet with cats, dragon and other animals


Looking at Leonardo’s drawings as reproduced above:

His outlines around the animals are quite determined.

(Of note some are done in silver point:  (Silver point=”Soon artists got into the act. The Dictionary of Art (1996: MacMillan, Ltd., v. 21, pp. 339-340) states, “although a metal stylus had been used to inscribe surfaces since Classical times, metalpoint was employed for drawing only from the medieval period. It was in frequent use from the late 14th Century up to the early 17th and was particularly favoured in the Renaissance period in Italy, the Netherlands, and in Germany…”(1) Cennino Cennini, writing in the 14th century, describes, in his Il Libro dell’Arte (2), the preparation of the surface to make it ready for silverpoint (he specifies dried chicken bones, burned until very white, mixed with color, then moistened with spittle). Leonardo da Vinci’s preparation of the paper probably included the spittle and bone ash, or perhaps the pumice mentioned earlier.” Ref:

Silver point would have been black when first applied but the oxidation of the silver causes it to turn brown with time.

Leonardo was a great studier of anatomy having dissected and drawn the anatomical layers of the human body and animals, hence I feel the determined lines which clearly surround these drawings must reflect his underlying knowledge-particularly as the drawings of the cats must have been done very quickly (by virtue of the speed of their movements) yet the outline is in many instances, entirely one line.  Inside this line  there is soft block shading, perhaps in chalk, with overlying hatching which follows the contours of the animal’s muscles –particularly seen in the drawings of the horses. The first depicted drawing concentrates on the rear and back legs of the horse and perhaps accentuates the underlying musculature. Leonardo appears to produce a sensation of strength in the horse by virtue of its visible muscles but in the cat an over accentuation of the musculature and playing down of the softer fur gives a less appealing picture of this animal.

Studies of a Bear Walking 1483-85 Metalpoint on pink-light brown prepared paper, 103 x 134 mm
ref :

Leonardo’s outline of the bear seems to be far less determined than his drawings of cats and horses with several lines used to outline the animal. The fur is hinted at over the neck and shoulders and the body shading hatched.He has depicted the bear walking and worked further on the study of his forefoot. I wonder if his knowledge of bear anatomy was less than that of the cats and horses and if his access to the bear was more restricted? The aggressiveness of the bear is brought out by the facial features and mean looking eye.

Studies of crabs  Drawing
Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Cologne  ref:

Once again the outlines of the animals are more determined and laid down on the whole in one line. The crab is drawn from the side and from a three quarter view of the front. It is hatched to depict the shade and the bumps and contours on the shell. The positioning on the paper of the two drawings seems to help indicate the crabs movement in scurrying away.

Albrecht Durer

Durer was an artist of the Renaissance of the North, being born 20 years after (in 1471) and hundreds of miles to the North (in Nuremberg Germany) of Leonardo Da Vinci. Durer visited Italy several times and developed, like Leonardo, an interest in the scientific aspects of human form as well as subjects such as mathematics. Ref:

His work was influenced by Northern and Germanic art of the time but also by the Italian Renaissance, particularly by the artists Jacopo de Barbari who lead him to consider anatomy and perspective.ref: 

Martin Luther also born Germany ( in 1483) reflects the changes in thinking of the times in which Durer lived and worked, with challenges on the teachings of the Roman Church.    ref:

Durer lived at a time in which Europe was changing, breaking away from classical art and religion into the reformation. Long held beliefs were challenged and changed and objective scientific discovery was taking over but much of his work maintains the classical religious theme.

much of his work was  in the form of woodcuts ” transformed the woodcut medium from semi-folk art to fine art, and very fine art indeed. ”

Young Hare Albrecht Durer   watercolour 1502  ref:

This very famous drawing of a hare in watercolour is carefully observed in shape, form and positioning   “Dürer lightly sketched the image and underpainted it with some washes of brown watercolour. Then he patiently built up the texture of the fur with a variety of dark and light brushstrokes in both watercolour and bodycolour. Gradually, the painting was brought to completion with the addition of a few refined details such as the whiskers and the meticulous reflection of a window in the creature’s eye.ref:

His sketch has less of the musculature of those of Leonardo. The hare just sits in an angled view with no defined background and just a hint of shadow.

Rhinoceros (woodcut) by Albrecht Durer


“Dürer never saw the actual rhinocerous but worked from a sketch done by another artist” ref:

This image is very determined in line and pattern but perhaps because it is a woodcut and the image almost imagined. Durer seems to have emphasised the armour of the animal, reflecting the knights on horseback that he commonly depicted. It fills the page, stocky immovable, lower lip curling downwards in a defiant stance and the writing around it, to modern day eye would put it into the realm of a scientific study.

Lobster by Albrecht Durer

A lobster pen and ink 1495 ref:

Perhaps due to fading this pen and ink drawing is very soft. Again the animal fills the page with no background features. The outlines around the animal are faint and the large claw on the far side very faintly drawn. There is soft block shading on the back tail as though the light is coming from the side from which the animal is viewed. The overall picture reminds me of Roman art from the walls of ancient villas-but perhaps that is by virtue of  its faded state and colour.

The Stork by Albrecht Durer

The Stork ref: pen and ink 1515

Another solitary animal against a relatively featureless background, a study in the form of the bird. Fine outline , fine lines depicting the direction and length of the feathers and darker shading on the tail feathers and an expression in the eye which asks what the artist is doing.

Walrus by Albrecht Durer

walrus  ref:

A study of the head of a walrus which leaves the upper edge of the paper,the tusks  being of import in the drawing as they are the prominent and central feature. Once again there is no  background but with writing around the drawing which translated says:”1521 That stupid animal of which I have portrayed the head was caught in the Netherlands sea and was twelve brabant ells long with four feet” . ” ref:

He looks quite wild or frightened and anatomically incorrect with a narrowing at the neck which I can’t find evidence of in photos and feel may be Durer translating his knowledge of other animals anatomy into the walrus.There is also an over exaggeration of the hair on his body (the walrus….sparsely covered with fur and appears bald-ref:

I’ve selected a photo of an adult walrus in a similar pose to that of Durers–perhaps the presence of a visible neck line in Durer’s sketch was due to his walrus being emaciated or a younger version. Durer’s rendering  has always grated on me and perhaps like the rhinioceros is as much invented as observed hence its unrealistic appearance.