Old Masters

Drawings of animals by Old Masters

I have looked at a selection of old masters: Leonardo da Vinci, Giovanni da Udine, Giorgione or Giulio Campagnola (I think this drawing must have been signed G. Campagnola), Melchior Michael Steidl and Albrecht Dürer.

First I am looking at Leonardo da Vinci.  He uses line very effectively to describe animals’ hair and body shape.


This drawing uses mostly outline and tone for the study of horses.  It is a good way to show depth and movement; I think drawn in chalk.  You can see the grain of the paper with very subtle shading.studyofhorseandrider1

Below is a study of cats.  Da Vinci uses  outlines, and hatching lines and short curved lines.  I think this collection of studies will particularly help you to learn to draw animals.  Although, in some ways these drawings are not exactly perfect.  Sometimes the cat is elongated a distorted.  Or else it just does not seem as it would in life.

This is sometimes an effect of drawing something from life – when you acutely observe something very subtle, it is difficult to draw it as quietly as it appears in reality.  But at the same time it seems an over sight to not draw it at all.  For instance the tails on these cats.  Cats tails do curl in this way, but they don’t look the way they do here.da-vinci-cats

Below is a study of a bear in outlines and hatching.  This is interesting as you can see how the bear moves  as he is drawing it.  This also shows how to draw the shape of an animal and use hatching to build the appearance of three dimensions using hatching.da-vinci-study-of-bear-walking da-vinci-horses


Below are two drawings by Giovanni da Udine.  He uses fine lines and blocks in areas of tone to describe texture, shape and tone.  As well as hatching and broader brush strokes for different types of line.

Giovanni da Udine studies of rock doves


The drawing below is of a mythical animal, but probably drawn from a real animal.  This is drawn almost entirely with line; mostly outline, but including some hatching.  It is by G. Campagnola.

Ganymede by giorgione giulio campagnola

Giorgione (Castelfranco 1477/1478 – 1510) or Giulio Campagnola (1482 – after 1514)
Jupiter and Ganymede above an Extensive Landscape, c. 1500
pen and brown ink on laid paper, indented with a stylus
overall: 150 x 117 mm (5 7/8 x 4 5/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington


Below is a study for a ceiling decoration, by Melchior Michael Steidl.  Animals are not the central figures but there are some owls and a dog there.  They look as if they were sketched in briskly with ink and grey wash, and highlights of white.

Melchior Michael Steidl . Study for a Ceiling Decoration Allegory of Night

Melchior Michael Steidl (Innsbruck 1657-Munich 1727). Study for a Ceiling Decoration: Allegory of Night. Pen and brown ink, brush and gray wash over black chalk on buff laid paper. 218 x 321 mm., 8 9/16 x 12 5/8 in.


Below are a collection of drawings by Albrecht Durer, which vary in style.

Immediately below seems like a more fanciful drawing which may not have been made from direct observation.  But at the same time shows alternative ways of adding surface texture to an animal which does not have hair.


Albrecht Dürer’s Rhinoceros, 1515

These drawings are


This drawing and the two below are created using a multitude of lines hatched and cross hatched over one another.  Short and long, curved and straight fine lines are used to describe the shapes of the animals and their surroundings.  I think the shadows are important for giving the impression of solid form.

young-steer durer

stork durer

The Little Owl uses fine lines and water colour paint.  I think this might be a painting rather than a drawing but I think it is worth including because it shows how line and tone have been used together to create the appearance of the three dimensions.  There is a shadow on the ground and a highlight which outlines the head of the owl.the-little-owl-1506 durer


This is a very good website which contains an overview of Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings: http://www.howtodrawjourney.com/leonardo-da-vinci-drawings.html






Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s