Sunday, February 20, 2011

Albrecht Durer - A Northern Renaissance Phenomenon in Painting, Woodcarving, and Copper Engraving

Albrecht Durer, a German painter, theorist, and printmaker, was recognized as one of the most important contributors of Renaissance in Northern Europe. His paintings depict his scrupulous attention to detail. He was born on May 21, 1471, in Nuremberg. His father was a goldsmith from Hungary, who immigrated to Germany in 1455. Albrecht Durer became an apprentice under his father and learnt from him goldsmithing and the fundamentals of drawing. Later, due to his prolific talent in drawing, Albrecht was trained under Michael Wolgemut at the age of 15 in 1486. While working under him, Durer nurtured his knowledge by learning woodcarving and copper engraving. The earliest work by the artist was in 1484, a self-portrait, "When I was a Child," in silverpoint.

As per Germany's apprentice training custom, 'Wanderjahre,' Albrecht left for North Europe in 1940 and travelled through Basel & Colmar in 1492, Strassbourg in 1493, to return to Nuremburg on July 7, 1494. On July 9, 1494, Albrecht was married to Agnes Frey, the daughter of a local businessperson. Within a quarter of his marriage, the artist alone ventured out to explore Italy. While travelling through Alps, the artist gave some of the first landscape paintings to Western Art, "Nemesis" being one of those. Albrecht's paintings demonstrated the influence of Italian painters, such as Antonio Pollaiuolo and Lorenzo di Credi. He regarded Giovanni Bellini, the great Italian artist, as his mentor.

After his return to Nuremberg in 1495, the artist started his workshop, where he ventured into woodcarving and would carry out the tedious form of printmaking effortlessly. The several wooden carvings he created depict religious influences, as in his masterpiece, "Apocalypse (1498)." Albrecht created sixteen designs of this work, famous among them is "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1497-98)." The series brought instant recognition to Albrecht, including from his European contemporaries. His other famous woodcarvings include a series of eleven designs on the "Holy Family" and a series of seventeen designs on the "Life of the Virgin (1503-1505)." Albrecht Durer also started experimenting with copper engravings. These works are themed around Madonna, religious figures, and commoners. His famous works of copper engravings span from "The Sea Monster (1498)," "Saint Eustace (1501)," to "Nemesis (1502)."

During 1505-1507, Durer again visited Italy and started using his paint on linen. While in Italy, the artist created famous altarpieces, such as "Paumgartner" and "the Adoration of the Magi." After returning to Nuremberg in mid 1507, he created other famous paintings, such as "Adam and Eve (1507)" and "Virgin with the Iris (1508)." From 1512, Maximilian I, the Roman Emperor, started giving regular work to the artist. Later, Durer created three of his masterpieces, "Knight, Death, and the Devil (1513)," "Saint Jerome in his Study (1514)," and "Melencolia I (1514)." These three engravings portrayed 'Northern Renaissance' and showed the three activities of human life. "Knight, Death, and the Devil" emphasize the ethical, "Melencolia" depicts the logical, while "St.Jerome," the introspective part of life. His other masterpiece was "Durer's Rhinoceros (1515)," a magnificent woodcarving that attained tremendous fame all across Europe. The Emperor died in 1519. In 1520, Durer travelled to the various parts of The Netherlands to return to Nuremberg in July 1521, after being diagnosed for a hampering illness.

Due to his ill health, the artist emphasized more on religious elements in his paintings like the "Crucifixion of Christ." In 1525, a couple of his books, "The Four Books on Measurement" were published at Nuremberg. He died on April 6, 1528, at the age of 56. His famous workshop is now a museum. Albrecht Durer was a great artist of 'Northern Renaissance,' a fact manifested in his huge following. He was an all-encompassing genius in painting, wooden printmaking, and copper engraving. He has quoted, "If a man devotes himself to art, much evil is avoided that happens otherwise if one is idle."

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