Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) has been called a Renaissance man due to his wide range of interests and artistic accomplishments. He was a child prodigy, and throughout his career, this painter and printmaker from Nuremberg was hailed for his keen powers of observation.
The Great Piece of Turf (Das große Rasenstück, also known in English as The Large Piece of Turf) is a watercolor masterpiece of realism from 1503. In our age, people are taking pictures of all kinds of things with their cell phone cameras and posting them on Instagram and Facebook; nothing seems too mundane to be photographed. But in Dürer's time, his choice of a wayward patch of vegetation as the subject of a work of art was a pioneering effort.
Botanical experts have identified several grasses, flowers, and weeds in the painting: cock's foot, creeping bent, smooth meadow grass, daisy, dandelion, germander speedwell, greater plantain, hound's tongue, and yarrow.
Using the spiritual practice of attention, Dürer has opened us to the exercise of wonder. The artist brings us to our knees so we can sense all the details in the blades of grass, the leaves, the flowers, and the ground.
There is chaos and energy here, and we marvel at the diversity and commonality residing in the wonderful world of nature. In this wayside clump of vegetation, Dürer shares with us the magnificent music of life and growth.