The Essential Dürer

The Essential Dürer

The Essential Dürer

The Essential Dürer


Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528), perhaps the most famous of all German artists, embodies the modern ideal of the Renaissance man-he was a remarkable painter, printmaker, draftsman, designer, theoretician, and even a poet. More is known about his thoughts and his life than about any other Northern European master of his time, since he wrote extensively about himself, his family's history, his travels, and his friends. His woodcuts and engravings were avidly collected and copied across Europe, and they quickly established his reputation as a master. Praised in life and elegized in death by such thinkers as Martin Luther and Erasmus, he served Emperor Maximilian and other leading church and secular princes in the Holy Roman Empire.

Although there is a vast specialized literature on the Nuremberg master, The Essential Dürer fills the need for a foundational book that covers the major aspects of his career. The essays included in this book, written by leading scholars from the United States and Germany, provide an accessible, up-to-date examination of Dürer's art and person as well as his posthumous fame. The essays address an array of topics, from separate and detailed studies of his paintings, drawings, printmaking, and sculpture, to broader concerns such as his visits to and interactions with Venice and the Netherlands, his personal relationships, and his relationships with other artists. Collectively these stimulating essays explore the brilliance of Dürer's creativity and the impact he had on his world, exposing him as an artist fully engaged with the tumultuous intellectual and religious challenges of his time.


The title of this volume clearly states its purpose. The Essential Dürer should provide newcomers to the artist as well as experienced viewers of his work an overview of the most important features of his oeuvre. Consequently, the organization of the essays begins with the major media and working methods of the artist, who excelled—even innovated—in painting, drawing, and the several media of printmaking, while also actively contributing designs for sculpture. The artist’s complex personality and individual selfconsciousness appear at every turn, from the biographical data that he provided as a personal memorial (even down to his recording of a nightmare!) to the subtle negotiations, both professional and spiritual, that he made within the tumultuous first decade of the Lutheran Reformation in his hometown of Nuremberg.

Of course, no man is an island. Albrecht Dürer interacted with the major artistic traditions of his day, both in the Netherlands and in Italy, especially Venice. He served as the familiar of princes, both the duke of Saxony and the Holy Roman Emperor, while maintaining close ties to the patrician elite of Nuremberg. Thus this volume investigates the artist’s wider connections, even his interpretive fortunes in later German art history, as well as his individual artistic achievements.

Clearly large sections of libraries are already devoted to Albrecht Dürer, but several good reasons call for a new volume of such “essentials.” For one thing, much of the important recent literature, including some major exhibitions and monographs, remains in German, inaccessible to the English reader. One of the ironies of twentieth-century Dürer scholarship is that the main foundational study of the artist’s life and art, written by émigré Erwin Panofsky and first published during World War II in 1943, did not receive its translation from English into German until 1977 when it was undertaken by Lise Lotte Möller, who had been one of his last students at the University of . . .

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