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Albrecht Durer


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
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,
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
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
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
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 Durer, Albrecht Durer,
Time-Life Books, 1967, Pages 1-173
2. Brion, Marcel, Durer, Albrecht Durer, Tudor Publishing
Company, 1960, 1-309
3. Funk and Wagnalls Encyclopedia/ Volume #8, Page 2906-2907


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