Essay, Research Paper: Albrecht Durer


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Albrecht Durer was born in Nurembourg in May 21, 1471. His father, Albrecht
Durer was a goldsmith, he had come from Germany to Nurembourg in 1455 and
married Barbara Holper. Barbara's father was Albrecht's master. Albrecht was his
father's third son. He was named Albrecht because of a family tradition which he
has been the third representative so far. Albrecht had three brothers named
Laszlo, Albrecht, and Ajtos. Albrecht was apprenticed to his father at the age
of 13. His father introduced him to the working with metal and the use of tools
with laid the ground work for his skill of engraving. He also learned painting
from his father at the age of 13. He preferred to draw and paint than to
goldsmithing. He painted a self portrait of himself at 13. This self-portrait
took the careful and the accurate work of all of the details to some him his
artistic talent.- In 1486, Albrecht's father sent him to learn painting and wood
working from Michael Wolgemut. Michael Wolgemut was a spectacular painter and
woodcut illustrator. In Michael W.'s busy shop Albrecht learned the fundamentals
of drawing, painting, and wood cutting. Albrecht also helped Micheal W. make
some illustrations for books. Michael W. probably took Albrecht to the
Netherlands, Basel, Stratsbourg, and in 1492 to Colmar in Alsace. Albrecht spent
so much time with him he called him his second father. His main attraction was
to see the master, Martin Schongauer. Who at the time was the leading German
graphic artist of the time. On the way there Albrecht found out the master had
died. On his arrival Martin's brothers showed him prints, drawings, and
Schongauer's perfect engraving's from the master's workshop. The prints,
drawings, and engraving's had a big influence on Albrecht's work. Albrecht then
went to Basel to stay with another brother of Schongauer, who conducted a
goldsmith workshop there. Basel was the center of graphic production and book
publishing at the time. In Basel Albrecht made many contacts and contributed a
signed woodcut for the title page of the Letters of St. Jerome. The success he
had from this woodcut probably led to another commission in Basel. In the fall
of 1493, Albrecht went to Stratsbourg where he continued to work for publishers.
In the end of May 1494 Albrecht returned to Nurembourg. In July 7, 1494 the 23
year old painter married Agnes Frey. Agnus was the daughter of a merchant. Not
long after his marriage in the fall of 1494 he took his first trip to Italy.
This visit enabled him to see his good friend Willard Pirckheimer who introduced
Albrecht to humanist thought and classical literature. Albrecht spent most of
his time of his first trip in Venice, Italy. There he met Jacopo de'Barbari.
de'Barbari whose figures constructed to geometrical methods and proportions
inspired Albrecht to live a lifelong study of theoretical writings. In Venice,
Albrecht made drawings of exotic figures, animals, and did nature studies. On
the ride home Albrecht made a abundant use of his water colors painting the
landscape around the Alps. Albrecht returned to Nurembourg by the summer of
1495. With the return of his trip he produced a large amount of paintings and
engraving's. Albrecht used the medium of engraving because that reflected his
theoretical interests. From about 1500 Albrecht's concern for the problems of
proportion and perspective increased. This action was probably caused by the
fresh contacts with the Italian works and study of Vitruvius. In 1502, after a
long period of weakness Albrecht's father had died. His fathers death had shaken
him up a tremendously. Soon after that Albrecht suffered from depression fits
and tormenting dreams.‚ His appetite for work had not been impaired due to his
father. He continued to work like nothing had happened. The Adam and Eve
painting in 1504 showed a lot of his techniques of engraving and the
construction of geometrical methods of male and female figures. The painting
Paumgartner Altarpiece shows a proportional emphasis on the view of proportions.
Throughout Albrecht's career he produced portraits of family, friends and
patrons. Albrecht painted 2 important self-portraits called Prado Madrid and
Alte Pinakothek, Munich. In 1505, Albrecht drew Crowned Death on a Thin Horse,
the plague epidemic inspired this painting. Because of this plague Albrecht
immediately departured from Italy in the summer of 1505. At the age of 34 he was
fully matured and successful with his career. After Albrecht stopped in Augsburg
he went to Venice to develop his painting style. Although many people admired
his paintings they said he was not as "antique" enough. Only Giovanni
Bellini commended him of his work. Albrecht's highest achievement at the time
was Feast of the Rose Garlands, which was ordered by the German merchants in
Venice. In this painting he combined the richness of Venetian color and the vast
of Italian compositions. Albrecht returned to his home of Nurembourg in February
1507. A long time patron, Frederick the Wise entitled him to paint an altarpiece
showing the execution of 10,000 Christians by a Persian king. Albrecht had
already made a woodcut of that subject but now he also painted it. For a couple
of more years he continued to paint requests for people. Albrecht started a
series of wood cuts of The Life of the Virgin. These were a series of legendary
stories about the virgin. Albrecht made his wood cuts and figures move easily in
the third dimension Albrecht's Life of the Virgin series agreed with his growing
concern for geometric form. In his figures and wood cuts you can see the perfect
work done with a ruler and compass. You can also see his admiration with the
Platonic notion of the human figure. Platonic notion is the human body drawn
with mathematical formulas. In his painting The Fall of Man Albrecht went
through a hard time trying to achieve a geometrical figure of two beings known
as man and woman. After many years of practicing geometrical figures Albrecht
learned how to paint several strands of hair with just one stroke. Giovanni
Bellini, one of Albrecht's admirer asked him to make a present of one of his
brushes he draws the strands of hair with. Bellini was surprised when he saw the
brush. Bellini said that the brissels must be separated or divided to draw
several strands of hair at once. Albrecht said that he drew it with a form of
symmetry. In 1505, Nurembourg was hit with another plague sending bodies down
the street in carts. In that late summer Albrecht left again to go to Venice.
Albrecht left his wife behind and his assistants to take care of his shop. This
time he did not have enough money to go so he had to borrow from Pirckheimer to
make the journey. He traveled in luxury, this time he went with horses and a
quantity of baggage that included his portraits he planned to sell. Albrecht
sold most of his paintings to Italy. In Venice, Albrecht bought a Italian coat
with the money he got from the paintings. He also took some dance lessons at a
local school with a fine man he met. Albrecht met many new friends everywhere he
went. Albrechts only disappointment of the trip was when he found some gray
hairs on his head. Albrecht wrote to Pirckheimer saying to take care of his
family and to lend money to his mom if she needed it. He also included to inform
him to not make love to his wife. Albrecht also told Perckheimer that he is not
supposed to take drinks or eat from any of the Venetian painters because they
all try to copy his work and they are my enemies. In 1509, Albrecht returned
home and was elected as a member of Nurembourg's Grand Council. This was a group
of 200 men of wealth who sometimes added to their number fellow citizens who had
distinguished themselves in other ways. Albrecht's new position did not
interfere with his artistic production. Back in his workshop he continued to
work on the Fall of Man engraving. This engraving was the picture of Adam and
Eve standing with the animals. Albrecht changed his method from geometrical
construction to the first pair of human beings. The year 1511 was very
extraordinary for Albrecht. In that one year he published all of his greatest
woodcut series like The Apocalypse, The Large Passion, and The Life of a Virgin.
In 1513, Albrecht was mainly concentrating on engraving. He made a charcoal
engraved self-portrait of his mother with a personal, tender message. Albrecht
was also busy making a huge woodcut Triumphal Procession and Triumphal Arch. In
July 1520, Albrecht and his wife took a trip to the Netherlands to see emperor,
Charles V. He also had to find new markets for his work. Albrecht did not have
good success in the Netherlands but he did meet fellow artists. Albrecht left
within a year and produced a number of portrait engraving's in Nurembourg. On
April 6, 1528, the 57 year old died. At his death his theoretical treaties were
not fully completed. Some of them were already published. According to Albrecht,
capturing the beauty of the human body is the most meaningful aim of art. But
this cannot be realized without knowledge of proportion and anatomy, and only
through geometry can be true beauty be known.


1. Russell, Francis, The World of Picasso, Pablo Picasso, Time-Life Books,

2. Brion, Marcel, Picasso, Pablo Picasso Tudor Publishing Company, 1990

3. Funk and Wagnalls Encyclopedia/ Volume #8, Page 2906-2907

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