by Ric Kasini Kadour
It took about fifty years for the Renaissance to move north from Italy and into the German hinterlands. Sometime in 1495, Albrecht Dürer fled an outbreak of the plague in Nuremberg and popped down to Venice to see what all the fuss was about. He discovered a world where artists were developing new perspectives, incorporating geometry into their practice, and observing the natural world. Dürer returned to Nuremberg and made it a center of the German Renaissance. “It is indeed true that art is omnipresent in nature, and the true artist is he who can bring it out,” he wrote.
Roughly seventy-five years later, Antwerp had become the richest city in Europe and Jacob Hoefnagel was enjoying the benefits of being a second generation artist. His father, Georg Hoefnagel had made a book of illustrations of plant and animal specimens in the cabinet of Emperor Rudolph II that was intended as resource for artists, something they could copy if they need a reference for a piece they were working on. Jacob set out making a new version of the book with the benefit of a convex lens that allowed the subject to be magnified. Ostensibly still-lifes, Hoefnagel would arrange the specimens on a page with a message. One piece for example includes an assortment of moths, flowers, seed pods, a dead mouse, and the words, “Nasci. Patri. Mori.” which translates “I am born. I suffer. I die.”
Artist motivation behind drawing and painting of insects traipses along through the centuries. For artists like the Victorian Fairy Painter Charles Kean, insects were a source of fantasy. Maria Sibylla Merian was a dedicated naturalist and scientific illustrator whose documentation of the butterfly was a significant contribution to entomology. Artists in the Arts & Crafts Movement like Dagobert Peche saw insects as a source of design and pattern.
To the noble lineage of insect art, Quinn Delahanty contributes thirteen drawings of bugs that she screenprinted onto 8”x10”, 130lb French Paper Company Smart White paper in editions of twenty and on t-shirts. The insects are rendered with a flat perspective in black ink. She writes about the project, “For most, a cockroach or a centipede is something to reject or even fear. I found that by drawing these creatures with an extreme attention to detail, there was an immeasurable amount of beauty in their intricacies.”