Monday, November 24, 2008
Albrecht Durer painted A Large Piece of Turf in 1503. This water color is considered a masterpiece of his realistic work. His attention to detail and extraordinary skill in rendering what he saw (if this is what he saw; surly he made alterations for aesthetic reasons) allows us, at a distance of over 500 years, to immediately appreciate the image and even to identify most of the plants.
While the work is highly realistic in its detail, it uses artificial compositional elements, presenting the piece of turf against a blank background, contrasting the complex image against the void behind, and using the edges of the paper to frame and arbitrarily cut off the vegetation at the top and sides. We use similar skills in the garden to frame features, scenes and vistas, and to contrast foreground against background.
The contrasting shapes and textures of the foliage, the massing of the plants, and the tension among the vertical grasses provide lessons for the naturalistic gardener.