Albrecht Dürer Travels of a Renaissance Artist



Albrecht Dürer’s grandfather was from the Hungarian village of Ajtos. Dürer’s father emigrated from Hungary to Germany, eventually settling in Nuremberg. Dürer himself lived in Nuremberg all his life but made several important European trips; along the Rhine, crossing the Alps twice to Italy and later to the Netherlands.

Dürer embraced Renaissance ideals while continuing to celebrate his German heritage

The travels therefore shaped Dürer’s family in significant ways while also fueling his curiosity and creativity, in part by putting him in contact with a wider range of other artists and, over time, increasing his fame and reputation. affecting. This is the first exhibition dedicated to the artist through his travels, bringing us, as visitors and spectators, closer to man himself, to the people and places he has visited. The world he inhabited and traveled through was at the start of a significant change, so as we follow his travels, our eyes are opened to significant cultural changes.

Albrecht Dürer Saint Jérôme 1521 Photo credit: Artlyst

Dr Bonnie J. Noble noted that: “After his travels to Venice and his encounter with the Italian Renaissance, Dürer embraced the Renaissance ideals he experienced while continuing to celebrate his German heritage. Dürer had to master painting and surpass all others in engraving, both in relief and intaglio. In the end, he relied on his impressions for profit and recognition. Dürer not only experienced the transformation from Gothic to Renaissance, but he was also an agent of this change. ‘ The exhibition seeks to show us the influences that Dürer absorbed during these travels, as well as his influence on his culture and other artists as he developed his craft and became one of the most important figures in the world. Northern Renaissance.

In the first room of the exhibition, we see how Dürer’s career progressed in the years following his return to Nuremberg after traveling to the Alps and Italy in the mid-1490s. The second room includes some of his first studies on human proportions made during his visit to Venice from 1505 to 1507. The third room contains many of his best-known engravings and sees him return to Nuremberg, where he was employed by the Roman Emperor Maximilian. I, before embarking on a journey north to Aachen, where the coronation of the new Emperor Charles V was to take place. Portraits are presented in the fourth room of the exhibition, while the observations of Dürer while drawing people, animals and cityscapes are explored in the fifth. These include sheets from his silver-tipped sketchbook with his most vivid and sensitive designs. The artists Dürer met during his travels in the Netherlands are the theme of room six. The last room is devoted to the Antwerp period, where Dürer befriends the Portuguese merchant agent Rodrigo de Almada. During and immediately after his trip to the Netherlands, Dürer experimented with new approaches to his portrayal of religious imagery due to his interest in Martin Luther’s emphasis on the essentials of the Christian faith.

Through his travels we see Dürer evolving from the apprentice who traveled to see Martin Schongauer’s work and befriended the aging Giovanni Bellini to the artist who became an influence on Jan’s work. Gossaert, Conrad Meit, Quinten Massys, Lucas van Leyden, Joachim Patinir and Joos van Cleve, among others. Throughout his travels, he became an innovator with, for example, the watercolor sketches made during his crossing of the Alps. These are the first pure landscapes ever produced in Western art. Later, with Christ among the Doctors, he creatively merged Renaissance and Northern Renaissance techniques into one picture. In addition, Joseph Koerner believed that all “great German artists drew their whole conception of what it means to be an artist from Durer,” who was the first artist in Germany “to theorize and codify an ideal of the beautiful as the goal of the art ”. ‘


Albrecht Dürer Christ among the Doctors 1506 Photo Artlyst

Dürer also became an entrepreneur, essentially eschewing painting for a time to exploit the possibilities opened up by the invention of the printing press. Increasingly, he became able to finance his travels and increase his fame through engravings and commissions. Instead of making custom prints as was the tradition until then, he kept stocks of his work, selling many of them both at home and on his travels. Noble notes that: “Images made in multiples, such as the engraving of Adam and Eve, meant that the ideas and designs of a German artist could be known in other regions and countries by a large number of people. German artists could learn about classical art without traveling to Italy. More people could afford more photos, as prints are easier to produce and generally less expensive than paintings. The traditional and direct contract between artist and patron, where an object was handcrafted for a patron and a place, gave way to a situation where several images could be seen by unknown spectators in an endless variety of circumstances.

Les Voyages de Dürer - Voyages of a Renaissance artist

Albrecht Dürer, The Crucifixion 1521, Pen in brown ink, 32.3 × 22.2 cm, The Albertina Museum, Vienna © Albertina, Vienna

While in the Netherlands, Dürer drew the portrait of the great humanist Erasmus and began to experiment with new approaches to the story of the Crucifixion, perhaps with impressions in mind. He wrestled “with universal problems concerning the meaning and conduct of earthly life, following Martin Luther’s challenges to conventional religious belief.” His portrayal of religious imagery was strongly influenced by his interest in Luther’s beliefs. He considered Luther a “truly honest man of God,” found personal comfort in his writings, and had a copy of every work published by him.

In 1520, when he thought Luther would be captured and killed by the church, Dürer contacted both Court Secretary George Spalatin and Erasmus for help. He urged Erasmus to prove that he was in the image of Christ by standing up for Luther. Steven Ozment explained how Dürer’s letter to Spalatin, lamenting “the lack of a public image of Luther that rightly recognizes his life and work,” led Spalatin to reunite Lucas Cranach and Luther to combine “their talents in support of their overlapping causes, ‘including the creation of this public image of Luther. Dürer later completed the circle with a 1526 image of Erasmus, which was to be his last engraving.

All of this innovation was made possible for Dürer by the art he saw, the artists he met, and the opportunities to expand his network of influence that occurred during his travels. This exhibit shows us what he saw, who he met and the reciprocity of influence that occurred. As we follow in his footsteps on his travels, not only do we get to know his work better, but also get to know Dürer and his world better. They say that traveling is education. This exhibition proves that this maxim is true, both for Dürer and for us who visit and watch.

Words Rev. Jonathan Evens Photos © Artlyst 2021

The Credit Suisse Exhibition: Dürer’s Journeys – Travels of a Renaissance Artist, National Gallery, November 20, 2021 – February 27, 2022

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