History of Nature Drawings
Nature drawings have a vast history that spans continents and cultures. Some of the oldest illustrations that survive depict herbs and plants; these were used to aid early doctors and alchemists of plants with medicinal properties. Throughout the middle ages, monks depicted various flora and fauna within the pages of illuminated manuscripts, while on the other side of the world, Chinese artists used landscape forms to depict the state metaphorically as a well maintained imperial garden. With the rise of European imperialism between the 18th-19th centuries, the desire to understand and systematically classify the natural world was prompted by the discovery of so many species new to science. This prompted a deluge of natural history drawings that included everything from plants to anatomical renditions of insects and animals, as evidenced in the drawings that William Farquhar commissioned between 1819-1823. The Hudson River School artists of 19th century America were known for their landscape paintings of pristine wilderness; many of the most famous artists used pen and ink nature drawings as studies for their final paintings as well as to depict the scenery from various angles. Landscape and animal drawings continue to be a popular subject for artists to depict the natural world around them.
Nature Drawings Techniques
Some of the most popular methods of nature drawings are pencil, charcoal, pen, and ink on paper. Ink wash painting, where the artist uses black ink in various concentrations, dates back to the fifth century throughout China, Japan and Korea. The technique involved tonality and shading by layering the ink and applying ink of varying densities onto highly absorbent xuan paper. The “suiboku” technique from Japan is used predominantly for landscapes and depicts an abstract simplification of forms, making it a premier example of abstract nature drawings. Western artists generally employed pens, pencils and ink on paper to depict their nature drawings. Natural history drawings were mainly for scientific study and emphasize realistic depictions of animals and plants for classification. Rather than draw an entire tree for instance, the artist would painstakingly draw a single leaf from a variety of views in the hopes that scientists would be able to distinguish subtle differences and be able to study it further. The most popular depictions of nature drawings come as studies for paintings that artists would later execute and were often done in ink on paper.
Artists Known For Nature Drawings
Albrect Dürer was fascinated with animals and plants that were discovered in faraway lands in the 15th-16th centuries. His drawing “Rhinoceros” (1515) depicts an Indian rhinoceros that he drew based on sketches and notes from Portuguese explorers. His drawing “A Young Hare” (1502) is one of his most popular images and is signed, indicating that the artist considered it a piece of art in its own right. George Stubbs’ depiction of horses are considered to be among the best in the world. His drawing “The skeleton of a Horse” (1766) shows his fascination with horses and their anatomy and is still in print today. John James Audubon is one of the most famous naturalists and is known for his detailed illustrations of birds in their natural habitats. Pablo Picasso’s “Bull” (1945) series of drawings is considered the epitome of representing an artwork from figurative to abstract and is among the most recognizable symbols he ever produced. Other famous nature drawings artists are Leonardo da Vinci, George Edward Lodge, Thomas Gainsborough, John Constable, Hokusai, Hiroshige, Massacio, Pieter Brughal the Elder, Canaletto, Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Winslow Homer and Childe Hassam.