You’ll probably recognize Moleskine notebooks as an ubiquitous presence in museum gift shops—including the Clark’s Museum Shop!
Moleskine notebook were supposedly used by several authors and artists throughout the past two centuries, including Henri Matisse, Vincent van Gogh, André Breton, and Ernest Hemingway. I’d like to add Albrecht Dürer to that list.
Although some of my peers favor electronic calendars to manage their schedules, I still rely on a daily planner to record every meeting, assignment, important reminder, and grocery list the hectic life of a grad student requires.
I have never been able to consistently keep a journal, but my stash of planners serves a similar purpose. Not only do they indicate my physical comings and goings over the years, but also how I was feeling on a given day, as evidenced by the random jottings, doodles, and other marginalia that decorate each page.
Albrecht Dürer, too, was a consummate scribbler of both words and thoughts. He kept diaries and folios to record his travels and the important moments in his life. Drawings, both studied and impromptu, filled his sketchbooks. Because paper was still a relatively new commodity and therefore much more valuable in Dürer’s time, he often used both sides of each page. In some cases, he returned to a particular page over and over again throughout the years to continue a single train of thought. He used a variety of mediums, including ink and watercolor, and also integrated words and texts.
Dürer’s most famous sketchbook is from his trip to the Netherlands in 1520 and 1521. He called this small book “mein Buchlein” and filled it with drawings using silverpoint, a convenient metalpoint medium popular at the time. His sketches cover a range of the subjects he glimpsed on his trip, including architectural details, animals, portraits, and costume studies. Sadly, “mein Buchlein” is one of the few of Dürer’s diaries to have survived.
This drawing is dated to 1521 and is linked to Dürer’s second stop in Brussels during his Netherlands journey. It is thought to have been drawn during his visit to the zoological garden at Coudenberg Palace, where he stopped once in 1520 (he refers to it in his journals) and then again on his way back home to Nuremberg (when he made the drawing, it seems).
Although Dürer’s sketchbooks and diaries are not included in the current exhibition, you can view some wonderful examples (including this drawing!) in the Clark’s extensive library holdings or in the Manton Center for Prints, Drawings, and Photographs. The library is open to the public from 9am to 5pm Monday through Friday. To make an appointment to stop by the Print Study Room, call 413 458 0560 or email [email protected].
Do you use a planner or keep a diary? Make sure to pencil in a visit to The Strange World of Albrecht Dürer!
Image credit: Albrecht Dürer (German, 1471–1528), Sketches of Animals and Landscapes, 1521. Pen and black ink, and blue, gray, and rose wash on paper, 10 7/16 x 15 5/8 in. (26.5 x 39.7 cm). Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, USA, 1955.1848 Image © Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, USA.