Project – Drawing Animals
Research Point – Leonardo Da Vinci/Albrecht Durer
Look at how Renaissance masters such as Leonardo and Durer depicted animals. Make notes and try and find some images to include in your learning log.
Leonardo Da Vinci was born in Vinci near Florence, Italy and lived from 1452 to 1519. He had an interest in animals in his youth and kept collections of insects and small animals. This interest developed into a need to research their form and anatomy.

It is considered that Leonardo did not dissect animals to the extent that he dissected human beings which is maybe evidenced by the facts that he was a vegetarian, unusual in those days, he had a respect and fondness for animals and there are few sketches of animal anatomy rendered by him and it is thought that any animal dissection Leonardo undertook was to make comparison with human anatomy.

Leonardo was interested in the movement of animals, ie. how they worked and in particular, flight, He drew animals in interesting positions and often depicting movement. His drawings often give the animal a personality.

leonardo-da-vinci-horse-4rider-on-rearing-horse1[1]  ROC399225

FIT156935   ROC487770

He probably drew more horses than other animals and the drawings are typical . Note the movement stages of the legs of the rearing horses and the vitality of the drawings.

XJF311216   ROC487771

Dogs were another Leonardo favourite. In the drawings above (excluding the cat!) the dogs are realistic with the muscles well depicted and the fur well drawn.

DGA648922   648923   648925

Birds were popular with Leonardo and particularly with reference to how they flew as this became a passion for Leonardo with his “invention” of flying machines. In these drawings the animals are drawn in fine detail bearing in mind that in Leonardo’s time drawing implements were mostly silverpoint or similar, or pen and ink so mistakes were not readily correctable.

ROC408310This drawing of cats in may different poses and often interacting with each other is remarkable for detail, particulalry, that Leonardo has given many of the ats an expression that fits the stance. The drawings are not just about anatomy as Leonardo had added shade and shadows with many different light sources.

JEP99710Observe the scaliness of the dragon and the mane of the lion in this mythical pen and ink drawing.

Albrecht Durer was born in Nuremburg, Germany and lived between 1471 and 1528. He showed a talent for drawing from an early age.

Like Leonardo, Durer produced many more drawings than paintings though on more varied themes including portraits and landscapes.

Primarily Durer was an engraver so his drawings often formed the preliminary work to a carving or etching. However in common with Leonardo he had an intellectual curiosity  and he wrote many manuscripts and books.

He was a master of detail and with regard to animals he was interested in portraying their form accurately and studied their anatomy though not as far as dissecting them.

XJF437437   BMC474473

FTB165446Not quite as action laden as Leonardo’s horses but accurate in form and detail.

duerer[1]  ROC427424648927 lion.jpg!Blog[1]      parrot.jpg!Blog[1]  stork.jpg!Blog[1]


Durer was an expert at portraying fur and feathers and in the cow picture he has given the animal depth by fine use of shading. Similar to Leonardo, Durer gives his animal personality.


Durer drew the rhinoceros without ever seeing one and his drawing was based on someone else’s sketch so there is some artistic license. But even so there is great form and detail in the portrayal and the rhinoceros’s expression seems to be how Durer would have expected it to be when you have a body like that depicted.

Leonardo and Durer were the first to study the form of animals in detail and reproduce them realistically on paper. The fact that so many of their works survived is remarkable but more notable is the precision of their work particularly bearing in mind the limitations of their drawing instruments as the graphite pencil was not produced until after their llives.


Text – Wikipedia, British Museum

Images – Wikimedia, Wikipaintings


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