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Dürer is the greatest of German artists and most representative of the German mind. He, like Leonardo, was a man of striking physical attractiveness, great charm of manner and conversation, and mental accomplishment, being well grounded in the sciences and mathematics of the day. His skill in draughtsmanship was extraordinary; Dürer is even more celebrated for his engravings on wood and copper than for his paintings. With both, the skill of his hand was at the service of the most minute observation and analytical research into the character and structure of form. Dürer, however, had not the feeling for abstract beauty and ideal grace that Leonardo possessed; but instead, a profound earnestness, a closer interest in humanity, and a more dramatic invention. Dürer was a great admirer of Luther; and in his own work is the equivalent of what was mighty in the Reformer. It is very serious and sincere; very human, and addressed the hearts and understanding of the masses. Nuremberg, his hometown, had become a great centre of printing and the chief distributor of books throughout Europe. Consequently, the art of engraving upon wood and copper, which may be called the pictorial branch of printing, was much encouraged. Of this opportunity Dürer took full advantage. The Renaissance in Germany was more a moral and intellectual than an artistic movement, partly due to northern conditions. The feeling for ideal grace and beauty is fostered by the study of the human form, and this had been flourishing predominantly in southern Europe. But Albrecht Dürer had a genius too powerful to be conquered. He remained profoundly Germanic in his stormy penchant for drama, as was his contemporary Mathias Grünewald, a fantastic visionary and rebel against all Italian seductions. Dürer, in spite of all his tense energy, dominated conflicting passions by a sovereign and speculative intelligence comparable with that of Leonardo. He, too, was on the border of two worlds, that of the Gothic age and that of the modern age, and on the border of two arts, being an engraver and draughtsman rather than a painter.



Publié par
Date de parution 07 janvier 2014
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781781608180
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 1 Mo

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ISBN: 978-1-78160-818-0
“As I grew older, I realised that it was much better to insist on the genuine forms of nature, for simplicity is the greatest adornment of art.”

— Albrecht Dürer
Table of contents

Self-Portrait of the Artist (with Landscape), 1498
Oil on panel, 52.5 x 41 cm
Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

21 May 1471: Dürer is born in Nuremberg.
1477: He attends the Public School of Latin.
1484: Joins his father’s goldsmith workshop.
1486: Begins his apprenticeship with the painter Michael Wolgemut.
1490-1494: The travelling years: Freiburg, Colmar, Strasbourg, and Basle.
7 July 1494: Marries Agnes Frey.
1494: First journey to Venice via Innsbruck, Klausen, and Trient.
1495: Returns from Venice with a series of landscape watercolour paintings.
1498: First graphics cycle with 15 woodcuts for Apocalypse .
1505-1506: Second trip to Italy; visits Bologna and Ferrara.
1506: Acquires his house at the Tiergärtnertor in Nuremberg.
1509-1511: Creates the Small Passion .
1510: Creates the Great Passion .
From 1512: In the service of Maximilian I.
1518: Spends time in Augsburg and travels in Switzerland.
1520-1521: Travels in the Netherlands.
6 April 1528: Dürer dies in Nuremberg.


Albrecht Dürer is not simply the artist who created Young Hare , The Large Tuft of Grass or the Study of Hands, symbols of medieval art that have almost degenerated into kitsch. Among the artists of medieval Germany, Albrecht Dürer is without doubt one of the most outstanding figures. He was not only a painter, graphic artist, wood-carver and copper engraver; he was also notable because of his mathematical examinations of the theoretical foundations of art, in the field of geometry in particular, where the transition from the late Gothic style to the Renaissance became the most apparent.

Self-Portrait at the Age of Thirteen
c. 1484
Silverpoint, 27.5 x 19.6 cm
Albertina Museum, Vienna

Dürer’s continuous efforts to achieve perfection, together with the then common search for forms, rules and mathematical laws, in order to be able to transform these ideas onto paper and canvas, is reflected in his writings from the second half of his industrious life. He published in 1525 the Instructions on Measurement . There were Latin editions also, published in the years 1532, 1535 and 1605.

Portrait of Dürer ’ s Father
Silverpoint on paper, 28.4 x 21.2 cm
Albertina Museum, Vienna

Among many other items were the first instructions, written in German, on the construction of sundials. The astronomer Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) and the mathematician Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) relied on Dürer’s ideas. In the year of Dürer’s death saw the publication of his four books on human movement: Here are four books on human proportions, discovered and described by Albrecht Dürer of Nuremberg for use by all lovers of this art.

c. 1489
Pen and ink drawing, 22 x 16 cm
Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Berlin

In the first three volumes Dürer described and examined types of human bodies, and in the fourth volume he occupied himself with the study of motion.
In contrast to the other artists of this epoch, an unusual amount of information is available on Dürer’s life, his development and the impact of his work.

Portrait of Barbara Dürer
Oil on wood, 47 x 38 cm
Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg

As a contemporary of the reformer Martin Luther (1483-1546), he stands between the two great Christian persuasions, presenting the Catholics with the Life of Mary (1503-1504), Saint Jerome in his Study (1514) and The Knight, Death, and the Devil , and Melanchthon (1526). Dürer could never limit the abundance of his ideas.
In addition, there exists a Self-Portrait (1484) by the thirteen-year-old Dürer. As his self-portraits from the years 1492, 1493, 1498 and 1500 show, Dürer occasionally portrayed himself in drawing using the silver pen technique and adding a monogram later by hand, which therefore did not enable later corrections.

Portrait of Dürer ’ s Father
Oil on panel, 47.5 x 39.5 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

As a twenty-year-old he wrote of his ideas in several books on woodcutting (which later were rarely attributed to him). By the age of twenty-four Dürer had produced not only his woodcuts of the Ship of Fools from the year 1494, but also the first copper engravings. In his later years Dürer was involved, sometimes reluctantly, in secondary art production, mainly serving the crown by portraying his powerful Emperor.

Courtyard of the Castle in Innsbruck
1492-1493 (?)
Watercolour on paper with filigree, 36.8 x 27 cm
Albertina Museum, Vienna

Dürer’s models were the masters of Italian art, and he adopted aspects of their work without ever becoming an “imitator” or copier of other artists’ work. His works reflect reason, and were mainly created using the intellect.
This is in contrast to Mathias Grünewald (c. 1470/1480-1528), who occasionally exhausted himself completing a single piece of work; or Hans Holbein the elder (c. 1465-1524); or even the audacious Hans Baldung (1484/1485-1545), whose works often engaged their souls.

A Young Couple
c. 1492-1494
Pen and ink drawing, 25.8 x 19.1 cm
Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg

The subjects of Dürer’s The Wire Drawing Mill, Young Hare and Rhinoceros were drawn only according to descriptions by third parties in 1515, and were never seen by him. His depictions of large armour-plates, or a female body worn out by life, for example, come from his experience and his thoughts independent of other influences.

Self-Portrait or Portrait of the Artist Holding a Thistle
Oil on parchment on canvas, 56.5 x 44.5 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

During the turbulent transition from the fifteenth to the sixteenth century, when America was (re) discovered, and the Greek classics were printed for the first time and social issues were to become relevant, the plastic artists were the only people able to articulate themselves in observance with the period. Because the new language created by Luther in an almost peaceful way could not yet be used and music only reached a few people, there were only limited forms of expression available at that time.

The Wire Drawing Mill
Watercolour rolled on gouache, 28.6 x 42.6 cm
Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Berlin

One reward for Dürer’s constant struggle for perfection was his closeness to the great personalities of his time. The Basle printing masters, the brothers of Martin Schongauer (c. 1450-1491), and in his hometown, the council member Pirckheimer (1470-1530) took the son of a craftsman under their wing. His friends among the Italian masters were primarily Bellini (1430-1516), Giorgione (c. 1478-1510) and Philip Melanchthon (1497-1560). The elector of Saxony was also no stranger to him. Dürer was considered a kind, affable and sensible man and, as someone who had travelled quite extensively within Europe, was made welcome in these circles.

Study of Three Hands
27 x 18 cm
Albertina Museum, Vienna


It is possible that Dürer, a quintessentially German artist, was not originally from Germany. His paternal ancestors came from the village of Ajtos, situated near the town of Gyula in Hungary. Therefore it cannot be completely ruled out that the word Ajtos, meaning “Tür” (door) in German, became “Türer”, that is, Dürer. We have evidence that his family had already been living in Nuremberg since 1444. There, the forty-year-old Albrecht, Dürer’s father, married his employer’s daughter in 1467.

View of Trento
c. 1494
Watercolour and gouache, 23.8 x 35.6 cm
Kunsthalle, Bremen

They had 18 children together, of which Albrecht was the third, but he was the first child to survive. He describes his parents as being full of love and affection, which is expressed in his pictures of them.
He describes his father as serious and considerate, always taking great pains to feed his forever growing family. However, Dürer was even more attached to his mother, whom he took into his home after his father’s death, where he portrayed her, in all her shocking th

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