Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Albrecht Dürer – Alessandra Zhang

Traveling in Uffizi Gallery in Florence, I was immediately appealed to the below masterpiece of Dürer – for its being highly detailed and vivid on wood. As a fervent lover of watercolor, I highly admired his exquisite mastery of watercolor. In Dürer’s view, even the simplest sketch could express “the spiritual essence of an artist’s creative impulse.”

Adoration of the Magi (1504), oil on wood, Uffizi Gallery, Florence

Life experience
Albrecht Dürer, born in Nurember, Germen, established his reputation across Europe when he was in his twenties. As a renown artist of the German Renaissance, he had a vast amount of work includes engravings, portraits and watercolors.
Born as the son of a goldsmith and working as a printer in the most famous publication in fifteenth century, Dürer became famous for his excellent techniques in woodcutting and printing. Later, he followed the common German custom of learning skills from artists to start as an apprentice and learn drawing skills. Dürer also had an attachment for Italy – he left for Venice to study more advanced artistic techniques and later on established connections with Raphael Giovani Bellini and Leonardo da Vinci.
His family background and personal experience largely contributed to his styles, techniques and themes of his work. I would choose three different styles of his work and provide analysis.

Travelled to Netherland, Dürer mastered a difficult medium of art from that area: silverpoint on prepared paper. Silverpoint produces a highly detailed image. However, it is very challenging since no corrections were possible. This medium requires meticulous details and perfection, setting the foundation for his style and expression. Image 1 is a self-portrait of Dürer. It is very common for an artist to express himself through self-portraits and Dürer records his emotions through portraits as well. In addition, Dürer’s ability of catching emotions is remarkable – we can tell this from his other sketches of human figure, such as the portrait of Dürer’s mother in Image 2.

Image 1, Self-Portrait, 1491-92, Pen and black ink drawing

Image 2, Portrait of Dürer’s Mother, 1514, Charcoal drawing

Dürer is the master of watercolor. He gives his work an utter simplicity that the medium can produce. In Image 3, he used translucent washes in capturing the clear light of the sky but created perfect details of the architecture. One intrigue part of this work is that it demonstrates the artist rising to the challenge of drawing the city’s reflection in the water.

Image 3, View of Innsbruck from the North, 1494– 95, Watercolor

Born as the son of goldsmith, Dürer started printmaking from a very young age. During that time, printed images serve a great variety of functions – form religious, to documents, mementos, and propaganda. As a result, there are a plethora of themes of Dürer’s printed images. As Image 4 shows, under Dürer’s cutting blade, the line widens as it deepens and results a line with flex and elasticity. Different density and directions of the lines create a three-dimensional space – light and dark. With the perfect space between each line, it renders a sense of surface tension. His lines are highly disciplined and thus gives rise to a cohesive work.

Image 4, Woodcut

The reason I love Dürer is that I enjoy seeing the details and emotions of a piece of art. In Dürer’s work, I can easily find striking yet vivid details. He is a genius of combining the medium and meaning of the art together. Moreover, I am a fan of watercolor. As a pioneer of watercolor, Dürer inspires me about how to evoke emotions and feelings in watercolor drawing with translucent color, solid color and large brushwork, refined brushwork. Hence, it is very fascinating and enlightening to delve deep into Dürer’s work.

1.     Silver, Larry. Smith, Jeffrey Chipps. The Essential Dürer. University of Pennsylvania Press: Pennsylvania, 2010. Print.
2.     Fara, Giovanni Maria. Albrecht Dürer: originali, copie, derivazioni. Firenze: L.S. Olschki, 2007. Print.
3.     Dürer, Albrecht. Albrecht Dürer Disegni. Firenze, La nuova Italia, 1973. Print.

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