Thursday, March 02, 2006

Albrecht Dürer--Self Portraits

Kate, at Regaining Paradise, inspired me to share a bit about my favorite Renaissance artist, Albrecht Durer. Here are several of his self-portraits:

Self-portrait, age 13

Dürer wrote of this portrait: "I drew this myself from a mirror in the year 1484, when I was still a child."
Self-portrait age 21
Self-portrait age 22
Self-portrait age 22
Self-portrait age 26
Self-portrait age 29

Albrecht Dürer was born in 1471 in Nuremburg, Germany and is considered by many to be the premier German artist of the Renaissance period. He was a painter, limner, woodcutter, engraver and mathematician. He developed the art of copper engraving and woodcutting to a degree that has never been equaled. I'll be sharing his most famous engravings in future blogspots.

His father was a goldsmith but soon it was clear that Albrecht's talents would take him beyond his father's goldsmith shop. He was apprenticed to the Master Michael Wolgemut of Nuremburg and there learned not only the technical skills of a painter but also developed his skills of wood cutting and engraving. At one point, Dürer supported himself by producing woodcuttings for illustrations in the burgeoning printing industry in Germany. This became his specialty and Dürer eventually became a publisher of books, most of which were religious in nature, for Dürer was a religious man; a man of both the Renaissance and the Reformation. I hope to devote a whole post to the spiritual journey of Dürer and his place in the Protestant Reformation.

He also was an excellent portraitist, or limner. Subjects include his parents, Emperor Maximillian (who was a patron of his work), Fredrick the Wise of Saxony, and friends Erasmus, and Philip Melenchthon. As a way of introduction, his self portraits are featured today. Many of his paintings were of religious subjects, however some of my favorites are his studies of plants and animals.

Although his paintings are exquisite, because of the media he chose and his approach he is often considered more of a graphic artist than a true painter.

Dürer kept extensive journals and diaries and was a prolific writer and theorist. In later years, he became fascinated with geometry and perspective and wrote extensively on the topic, both in his journals and in his book, "The Painter's Manual." He also produced a work on Human Proportion.

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