Albrecht Dürer

Albrecht Dürer was a German painter, engraver, printmaker, mathematician, and theorist from Nuremberg. His high-quality woodcuts established his reputation and influence across Europe when he was still in his twenties, and he has been conventionally regarded as the greatest artist of the Northern Renaissance ever since.

Dürer started to learn the basics of goldsmithing and drawing from his father and showed a precocious talent in drawing. He started an apprentice to Michael Wolgemut at the age of fifteen and, after completing his term of apprenticeship, he followed the common German custom of taking Wanderjahre—in effect gap years —in which the apprentice learned skills from artists in other areas and spent four years away. He went to Colmar, Strasbourg and Basel. He came back to Nuremberg in 1492 to marry Agnes Frey following an arrangement made during his absence. Within three months of his marriage, he left for Italy, alone and went to Venice and probably Padua and Mantua. This visit and another one he made later had an enormous influence on him.

On his return to Nuremberg in 1495, Dürer opened his own workshop. Over the next five years his style increasingly integrated Italian influences into underlying Northern forms. His best works in the first years were his woodcut prints. These were larger and more finely-cut than the great majority of German woodcuts hitherto, and far more complex and balanced in composition. As prints where highly portable, Dürer become famous throughout within a very few years.

In 1500, Venetian artist Jacopo de' Barbari, visited Nuremberg, and Dürer learned a lot from him about the new developments in perspective, anatomy, and proportion. He began his own studies, which would become a lifelong preoccupation. He also returned to Venice in 1506 where he received valuable commission from the emigrant German community. At that time, his reputation had spread throughout Europe and he was on friendly terms and in communication with most of the major artists including Raphael, Giovanni Bellini and Leonardo da Vinci. Between 1507 and 1511, Dürer worked on some of his most celebrated paintings: Adam and Eve (1507), The Martyrdom of the Ten Thousand (1508), Virgin with the Iris (1508), the altarpiece Assumption of the Virgin (1509), and Adoration of the Trinity (1511). During this period he also completed two woodcut series, the Great Passion and the Life of the Virgin.

From 1512, Maximilian I became Dürer's major patron and made several portraits of the Emperor. In July 1520 Dürer made his fourth and last major journey, to secure the patronage of the new emperor, Charles V, after Maximilian's death. Dürer journeyed to Cologne and then to Antwerp. At the request of Christian II of Denmark, Dürer went to Brussels to paint the King's portrait. On his return to Nuremberg, he worked on a number of grand projects with religious themes, including a Sacra Conversazione, though neither was completed. This may have been due in part to his declining health. The last years of his life, Dürer produced comparatively little as an artist. He succeeded in producing two books during his lifetime. "The Four Books on Measurement" and "The Four Books on Human Proportion" He died in Nuremberg at the age of 56.

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