THIS drawing of a hare, which is very like a rabbit, was made 484 years ago. It is by a German artist from Nuremberg, Albrecht D"urer. You can see his initials, or monogram, and the date, 1502. His hare seems so lifelike that you nearly expect its nostrils to twitch and its long, supple ears to hear you. Only in a picture could this lively animal crouch so still for centuries! How did D"urer draw it so carefully without it leaping away?
People who have written about ``Hare'' are sure D"urer painted it from a live hare, probably a pet. One writer even thinks the bars of the artist's studio window are reflected in the creature's eye.
The hare's rough coat, painted with a small brush in many different lines and directions, makes you want to stroke it and feel how soft it is. The painter has also let us see the form of the hare's body under the fur. It must be quite bony. The head, too, is firm, and the claws sharp.
How would you draw a hare without looking at a real one?
In D"urer's time artists were only just beginning, after hundreds of years, to look straight at people and animals to see if the way previous artists had been drawing them was right.
If artists wanted to put animals in one of their important paintings -- an altarpiece, perhaps, for a church -- they often copied them from an earlier painting or sculpture, or from a book of animals called a ``bestiary.''
When D"urer wanted to paint a lion, for example, he had to learn from others in this way because there were no lions for him to see in his part of the world. It was not until he was 50 that he saw a live lion. He drew it eagerly. Hares, however, were easier to find.
D"urer's father was a goldsmith. His training took place first in his father's workshop in Nuremberg. D"urer's apprenticeship probably started when he was 10 to 12 years old and ended when he was 16.
His father thought he would become a goldsmith. But he soon began to think he would rather be an artist. So he was trained by a local painter.
As early as age 13 D"urer had done a very unusual thing. He had looked really hard at his own face in a mirror and drawn his self-portrait. This is the first work by D"urer still in existence, as far as we know. This sensitive self-portrait proves that the boy was a budding artist of amazing ability. In 1490 he made oil paintings of his mother and his father. An expert on art says their quality ``surpasses all other portraits done in Germany during this period.'' And D"urer was only 19!
His young promise led to a brilliant career as a painter and printmaker. He traveled a lot, learning about art and observing nature all his life.
Animals, birds, and even a crab play lively roles in his art, and his close interest in exactly how they looked has appealed to admirers ever since. ``Hare'' is probably the most popular of all his animals.