I first got to know the work of Albrecht Durer, who was a Northern Renaissance artist, when I took an advanced seminar course on printmaking at the Boston Museum of Fine Art while I was attending Brandeis University. I found his work harder to understand than the other two artists we studied, Rembrandt and Goya, but that didn’t make me appreciate his genius any less. And a genius he was. Take a look at his self-portrait when he was a very young teenager.
He was raised to be a goldsmith like his father but was such a talent that he apprenticed the largest printmaking shop in the area instead. He traveled around Germany after that and eventually made his way to Italy where he drew some of the first pure landscapes in the history of Western Art.
He was one of the first in Northern Europe to systematically investigate anatomy in detail, drawing hundreds of figures and diagrams to help himself understand the nature of the human body.
His greatest fame though came from his printmaking. By his mid-2os he was famous throughout Europe for his incredible engravings and woodcuts. The engravings are what I studied at the Museum. They are deeply symbolic and allegorical in many cases.
His detail and composition are always expert of course but it is his willingness to expose deep truths and fears of life that always grabs me the most.
Finally, if you ever look at artwork involving praying hands, such at the huge bronze sculpture of praying hands here in Tulsa, here you are seeing the foundational drawing that they all are rooted in. Probably his most famous work to the non art oriented public. Interesting enough, it is not titled ‘Praying Hands’.
Durer is well worth investigating, not just the images but his story as well. You can read about him at Wikipedia as a start of course. And the images here can be found at WikiPaintings.org, a great resource.
- Week #5 – Francisco Goya
- Week #4 – Robert Irwin
- Week #3 – Veruschka
- Week #2 – Albrecht Durer
- Week #1 – Roger Brown