Recreating Düerer’s Rhinoceros


Düerer’s Rhinoceros shows features like a horn on its back that are not an accurate depiction of a rhinoceros. Nevertheless, these anatomical inaccuracies did not stop Dürer’s woodcut of an Indian rhinoceros from becoming a famous icon in the 18th century.

David Yao '22, Writer

Düerer’s Rhinoceros was a woodcut done by German printmaker and painter Albrecht Dürerer in 1515 based on a written description of an Indian rhinoceros that had arrived in Lisbon. Although Dürer never saw the actual rhinoceros, his woodcut was a representation of what rhinoceroses were thought to look like during this time since it was the first living example in Europe.

Students taking Introduction to Art were tasked to “flex their creative muscles” by recreating Düerer’s Rhinoceros on scratchboard. Mr. David Bligh, who led the charge, describes the project as an immersive experience for all, especially for those interested in pursuing art. Moreover, students approached their artwork innovatively, and the results are nothing short of that.

First, students learned how to adjust the size of Düerer’s Rhinoceros to fit their scratchboards by using a printer — followed by drawing a grid with four quadrants on the image. Each quadrant of Düerer’s Rhinoceros was cut and measured precisely, before tracing its outline on scratchboard. By splitting the image into four quadrants, it taught students to be patient with their artwork and to pay closer attention to detail.

Then, Bligh challenged his students to carve Düerer’s Rhinoceros upside down on scratchboard to create “a shift from left to right brain,” so they could look at their artwork from a new perspective, rather than only seeing preconceived shapes. Students also worked with an assortment of tools like scrapers that removed the black surface to reveal a silvery-white layer. They focused on tonality by scraping the areas of the rhinoceros that were bright and leaving the dark parts to bring the artwork to life.