Durer, Albrecht

from The New Book of Knowledge®

ART HISTORY ON DEMAND > Artists

The German artist Albrecht Dürer did more than any other to bring the art and ideas of the Renaissance to northern Europe. He became the most honored and respected artist in northern Europe—not just for his skill but for his scholarship as well.

Dürer was born in Nuremberg on May 21, 1471. Until he was 15 he worked with his father, a goldsmith. Then he served as apprentice to the artist Michel Wolgemut (1434-1519) for three years. During this time Dürer became skilled in techniques of woodcut and engraving. In 1490 he left home to travel.

Dürer was married in 1494. He went to Venice later that year and again in 1505. There he saw works of the great masters of the Italian Renaissance, and his own work began to show their influence. He combined the detailed Gothic characteristics of his native German style with the classical harmony of Italian art. Dürer's engraving Saint Jerome in His Study shows the scholarly saint studying at his desk in a simple and orderly room. The German love of detail and concern with mystery and death are also present.

Dürer learned not only from the art of Renaissance Italy but also from the theories of scholars. He had friends throughout Europe, including Giovanni Bellini and Martin Luther. He became well educated in mathematics, geometry, Latin, and literature. Emperor Maximilian respected Dürer so much that he made the artist court painter and awarded him a pension for life.

Although he did many excellent drawings and paintings, including portraits and landscape watercolors, Dürer is best known for his detailed work in woodcut and engraving. He was the greatest master of the engraving technique, in which a drawing is cut into a copper plate, inked, and printed on paper.

After Maximilian died, Dürer wanted to make certain that the new Holy Roman emperor, Charles V, would renew his pension. So he went to the Netherlands to attend the coronation of the new ruler. When he arrived at the court, Charles treated him with great respect. Then, Dürer returned to Nuremberg and spent his last years there, developing and writing about his theories of art and beauty. He died on April 6, 1528.

Reviewed by Lola B. Gellman
Queensborough Community College

 

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