Buttercups, Red Clover, and Plantain
Albrecht Dürer, German, Buttercups, Red Clover, and Plantain, 1526, Watercolor and gouache on vellum; 29.7 x 21.8 cm (11 11/16 x 8 5/8 inches), Gift of Mrs. Brockholst Smith in memory of her mother, Jane W. Bradley 38.053
During the sixteenth century, European artists began to study and depict the natural world with an empirical eye. For the first time they made nature a subject for art rather than using it as a simple backdrop to narrative or biblical scenes. This watercolor’s creator was a contemporary of Albrecht Dürer, a highly influential German artist and one of the first northern Europeans to paint individual nature studies. Drawn from actual buttercups, red clover, and plantain specimens, the artist carefully delineated the three different species while presenting them as one living, complex organism. The skillful composition evokes the natural qualities of the subject through a seemingly haphazard yet elegant arrangement of forms on the page.