Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Art History 101 Albrecht Durer

I've heard the story behind this painting. It's of Albert Durer's brother's hands. He worked as a blacksmith and supported Albrecht so he could become a painter, giving up his dream of becoming one too. It's a very touching story of sacrifice and love.  Durer was a brilliant print maker and businessman. The common people were able to buy some of his religious prints which he priced low to make them accessible.

Hands I - Albrecht Durer -

A supremely gifted and versatile German artist of the Renaissance period, Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528) was born in the Franconian city of Nuremberg, Germany, one of the strongest artistic and commercial centers in Europe during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. He was a brilliant painterdraftsman, and writer, though his first and probably greatest artistic impact was in the medium of printmaking. Dürer apprenticed with his father, who was a goldsmith, and with the local painter Michael Wolgemut, whose workshop produced woodcut illustrations for major books and publications. Dürer revolutionized printmaking, elevating it to the level of an independent art form. He expanded its tonal and dramatic range, and provided the imagery with a new conceptual foundation. By the age of thirty, Dürer had completed or begun three of his most famous series of woodcuts on religious subjects: The 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1498 11"x14") 

 He went on to produce independent prints, such as the engraving Adam and Eve (1504 

 and small, self-contained groups of images, such as the so-called Master Engravings featuring Knight, Death, and the Devil (1513)

 which were intended more for connoisseurs and collectors than for popular devotion. Their technical virtuosity, intellectual scope, and psychological depth were unmatched by earlier printed work.

More than any other Northern European artist, Dürer was engaged by the artistic practices and theoretical interests of Italy. He visited the country twice, from 1494 to 1495 and again from 1505 to 1507, absorbing firsthand some of the great works of the Italian Renaissance, as well as the classical heritage and theoretical writings of the region. One of his writings includes the first scientific treatment of perspective by a Northern European artist.

Dürer's talent, ambition, and sharp, wide-ranging intellect earned him the attention and friendship of some of the most prominent figures in German society. He became official court artist to Holy Roman Emperors Maximilian I and his successor Charles V, for whom Dürer designed and helped execute a range of artistic projects. In Nuremberg, a vibrant center of humanism and one of the first to officially embrace the principles of the Reformation, Dürer had access to some of Europe's outstanding theologians and scholars, including Erasmus (  captured by the artist in a shrewd portrait.. For Nuremberg's town hall, the artist painted two panels of the Four Apostles (1526)  bearing texts in Martin Luther's translation that pay tribute to the city's adoption of Lutheranism. Hundreds of surviving drawings, letters, and diary entries document Dürer's travels through Italy and the Netherlands (1520–21), attesting to his insistently scientific perspective and demanding artistic judgment.

The artist also cast a bold light on his own image through a number of striking self-portraits—drawn, painted, and printed. They reveal an increasingly successful and self-assured master, eager to assert his creative genius and inherent nobility, while still marked by a clear-eyed, often foreboding outlook. They provide us with the cumulative portrait of an extraordinary Northern European artist whose epitaph proclaimed: "Whatever was mortal in Albrecht Dürer lies beneath this mound."

Self Portrait At 26 - Albrecht Durer -
Durer at age 26

Jacob Wisse
Stern College for Women, Yeshiva University

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