Albrecht Durer’s “The Large Piece of Turf” features a chunk of soil and weeds that could just as easily have been dug up from the vacant lot down the street from me (here in 2012) as from the German meadow that likely inspired Durer hundreds of years ago.
Painted in 1503, “Turf” was actually one of the very first naturalistic renderings of nature (that sounds weird) in Europe. Up to that point, botanical artwork was either decorative or illustrative — in both cases the plants were overly stylized and not necessarily very natural looking.
So this iconic painting of Durer’s, this gorgeous depiction of humble plants such as plantain and dandelion, was groundbreaking not only for its technical skill but also for its style. (Oh, I didn’t just know all this by the way…I just read about it in the nifty book Weeds, by Richard Mabey.)
And here’s a really cool little animation of this painting I found on Vimeo. It’s only a minute long: