I first got to know the work of Albrecht Durer, who was a Northern Renaissance artist, when I took an advanced seminar course on printmaking at the Boston Museum of Fine Art while I was attending Brandeis University.  I found his work harder to understand than the other two artists we studied, Rembrandt and Goya, but that didn’t make me appreciate his genius any less. And a genius he was.  Take a look at his self-portrait when he was a very young teenager.

 

self portrait at 13

Albrecht Durer – Self-portrait at age 13 – 1484

 

He was raised to be a goldsmith like his father but was such a talent that he apprenticed the largest printmaking shop in the area instead.  He traveled around Germany after that and eventually made his way to Italy where he drew some of the first pure landscapes in the history of Western Art.

 

Great Piece of Turf

Albrecht Durer – ‘The Great Piece of Turf’ – Watercolor, Pen & Ink – 1503

 

He was one of the first in Northern Europe to systematically investigate anatomy in detail, drawing hundreds of figures and diagrams to help himself understand the nature of the human body.

 

nude self portrait

Albrecht Durer – Nude Self Portrait – Pen & Ink – 1503-1505

Figure of a woman shown in motion

Albrecht Durer – Figure of a Woman Shown in Motion – 1528

Studies on the Proportions of the Female Body

Albrecht Durer – Studies on the Proportions of the Female Body – Woodcut – 1528

 

Adam and eve

Albrecht Durer – Adam and Eve – 1507

 

His greatest fame though came from his printmaking.  By his mid-2os he was famous throughout Europe for his incredible engravings and woodcuts.  The engravings are what I studied at the Museum.  They are deeply symbolic and allegorical in many cases.

 

Melancholia

Albrecht Durer – Melancholia – engraving – 1507

four horsemen of the apocalypse

Albrecht Durer – Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – Woodcut – 1498

Knight, Death and the Devil

Albrecht Durer – Knight, Death and the Devil – Engraving – 1513

 

His detail and composition are always expert of course but it is his willingness to expose deep truths and fears of life that always grabs me the most.

Finally, if you ever look at artwork involving praying hands, such at the huge bronze sculpture of praying hands here in Tulsa, here you are seeing the foundational drawing that they all are rooted in. Probably his most famous work to the non art oriented public.  Interesting enough, it is not titled ‘Praying Hands’.

 

Hands of an Apostle

Albrecht Durer – Hands of an Apostle – Drawing – 1508

 

Durer is well worth investigating, not just the images but his story as well.  You can read about him at Wikipedia as a start of course.  And the images here can be found at WikiPaintings.org, a great resource.

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