Dürer: The Great Observer

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Thomas Micchelli reviews the exhibition Albrecht Dürer: Master Drawings, Watercolors, and Prints from the Albertina at the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., on view through June 9, 2013.

Micchelli writes: "Dürer’s boldness with his materials is evidenced in what is probably the most emblematic image to come from the Great Observer, namely 'The Great Piece of Turf' (1503)… The work is minimal in its color choices — tonal gradations of raw umber and mint green, with dabs of aquamarine and amber — and if you continue to look closely at it, raising your eyes inch by inch up through the weeds, it can seem like a dull profusion of busy green verticals. Take one step back, however, and the whole thing pulls together, not unlike a Jackson Pollock or a Joan Mitchell, with the blank backdrop suggesting a field of hazy, ambient light while simultaneously behaving as an undisguised paper support. The great piece of turf looks virtually collaged to that support, its dry densities of paint creating a hyper-real alternative reality to the paper’s all-too-real, blank tactility."

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