As the pioneer of the Northern European Renaissance, Albrecht Dürer is one of art’s greatest “superstars.” From March 24, 2013 to June 9, 2013, The National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. is honoring this talented Old Master with an exhibition entitled “Albrecht Dürer: Master Drawings, Watercolors, and Prints from the Albertina.” Highlighting Dürer’s works on paper, this exhibition traces Durer’s career from his youth well into adulthood and includes such famed works as Praying Hands and Self Portrait at the Age of Thirteen. Created in 1484, Self Portrait at the Age of Thirteen highlights Dürer’s unique talent at a young age. Created in the unforgiving silverpoint medium, this striking work conveys a youthful Dürer with round face, shaggy hair, and draped clothing, gesturing towards something beyond the composition. Dürer’s flair for the dramatic and the mysterious is already apparent in this stunning work.
Born in 1471 in Nuremburg, Germany, Dürer initially apprenticed with his father, a goldsmith, and then with a local painter Michael Wolgemut. His talent as an artist was apparent from a young age, yet he veered from the path of the typical up-and-coming artist at the time and took a great interest in traveling. Through his travels, he visited Basel, Colmar, the Netherlands, Cologne, and Italy, often sketching plein-air landscapes as he went. Italy, in particular, transformed his artistic style and paved the way for his artistic innovation.
Dürer took a particular interest in printmaking and ultimately revolutionized this medium, particularly with his expressive and detailed woodcuts and engravings. He began his career in printmaking by copying the Italian masters and gradually progressed to creating his own unique prints, which, as Holland Cotter states, adapt “Classical motifs to the Gothic conventions.” Cotter continues to comment on the “twisted, strenuous grace” of Dürer’s prints, stating that “their [the prints’] power lies exactly in the fact that they seem unsettled, disruptive, on edge” (Cotter, Holland. “The Renaissance Followed Him North.” The New York Times, March 21, 2013).
Following the death of his mother in 1513, Dürer underwent a psychological transformation, creating some of his most famous engravings, Knight, Death, and the Devil, St. Jerome in His Study, and Melancolia I. These works are often interpreted as Dürer’s expressions of mourning and are highly sought after in today’s market. In addition, with engravings such as The Sea Monster and St. Eustace, Dürer pays equal attention to the natural landscape and his main subject(s), creating fantastical scenes that transport us to another place and time. St. Eustace, in particular, is one of my personal favorite works in our entire collection. Highlighting the romantic and lush grandeur of the German countryside, Dürer creates a peaceful and serene scene of private spirituality. All elements appear balanced in this exquisite composition, as we witness the beautiful bond shared between man, beast, and divinity.
Masterworks Fine Art currently has a range of original Dürer woodcuts and engravings on display that reflect the life and talents of the incredible Albrecht Dürer. We invite you to browse our Dürer inventory for further insight into Dürer’s artistic genius.
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