Thursday, October 11, 2012

Albrecht Durer - Nina Quattrocchi

Albrecht Durer was extremely gifted. Durer was born in 1471 in Nuernberg. He was the third of eighteen children. At a young age, he was apprenticed to his father’s goldsmith shop. However, his father noticed his talent and sent him to apprentice in painter Michael Wohlgemut’s shop. He stayed there for 3 years and learned to mix ink, prepare panels, and most importantly, was introduced to printmaking. His talents were extremely versatile – he was well known as a German painter, printmaker, draftsman, writer mathematician, and theorist. He is best known as a printmaker, accredited with revolutionizing the art form by expanding the tonal and range. He is considered to be the greatest artist of the Northern Renaissance. The drawing below is his self portrait at the age of 13. He was clearly a very gifted artist as he was able to draw so well at such a young age.

Self-Portrait, 1484
Drawing on paper

Italian art and theory inspired Durer. He introduced classical motifs into Northern art. Durer visited Italy twice, first from 1494 to 1495, and then again from 1505 to 1507. He experienced the art of the Italian Renaissance, which inspired his work. Durer became very interested in the human body. He wrote the first mathematics book published in German. His student manual on geometric theory was the first scientific treatment of perspective by a Northern European artist. This is relevant to what we learned in class earlier today about linear persepective and empirical perspective. His drawing below, the Poynter Apollo, is a great example of Italian art’s influence on Durer and his interest in the study of ideal human proportion. He drew this in between his first and second visit to Italy. This drawing is one of Durer’s four studies on the male nude based on the canon of Vitruvius. The drawing also signifies his interest in the antique sculpture Apollo Belvedere. This sculpture inspired Durer’s quest to represent the perfect anatomy. We can see that he drew this in two stages – the light-brown ink contours might be traced from his painting of Apolla and Diana and the hair and modeling lines was probably freehand.

Poynter Apollo, 1501-1503
Pen and Brown and Black Ink drawing

Durer’s best known work is his drawing “Hands.” Although not necessarily true, there is a widely spread story about this masterpiece. Both Albrecht and his brother Albert wanted to be artists but their family had no money so they tossed a coin to see who would go to school and who would work in the mines to pay for the schooling. Albrecht won and went to school. He came back a distiguished artist and at a celebratory dinner toasted to his brother that it was now his turn. His brother said it was too late for him – all the work in the mines had destroyed his hands. Durer named his drawing of his brother’s hands “Hands” but the entire world calls it “The Praying Hands.”

Praying Hands c.a. 1508

A post about Durer would not be complete without including some of his woodcuts. The first picture is a woodcut of the southern sky is based on maps of stars by an anonomous artist in 1503. Durer recalculated the position of the stars in 1515 for this piece. I think this is an important piece because it shows Durer’s scientific side. The second woodcut, "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse," is the third and most famous woodcut from his series for "The Apocalypse." This woodcut is based on an unthreatening image in earlier illustrated Bibles. Durer is able to make the scene dangerous and fast-paced by manipulating the wood. 

Celestial Map of the Southern Sky, 1515
Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, c.a. 1497-98

I decided to write about Durer because although I have seen his drawing of the hands before, I had never heard the name before. I was also drawn to Durer for his amazing versatility. He is such a great artist but also an established writer, scientist, and mathematician. He is truly a gifted individual and I loved learning more about him and his work besides “The Praying Hands.” From my research, I have been inspired by his versatility. I tend to be more comfortable with a specific style of drawing, but after learning all about him, I am more ready to take risks and try different things.


"Albrecht Durer,"

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"Albrecht Dürer: Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (19.73.209)". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (October 2006)

"Albrecht Dürer: Celestial Map of the Southern Sky (51.537.2)". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (October 2006)

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Fara, G. M. (2007). Albrecht Durer : originali, copie, derivazioni. Firenze: L.S. Olschki.

Muller, H. (2002). Albrecht Durer : Waffen und Rustungen. Mainz: von Zabern.

"Self-Portrait at 13,"

Smith, J. C. (2012). Durer. London ; New York: Phaidon.

Wisse, Jacob. "Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528)". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (October 2002)

Zuffi, S. (2012). Durer. Munich ; New York: Prestel.

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