The Early Modern World, C. 1300–1600

Sixteenth-Century European Art and Architecture

Who was Albrecht Dürer?

Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528) was a Great Master from Germany known for his immaculately detailed drawings, paintings, and prints. He wrote a book of advice for artists called, Four Books of Human Proportion, and was known to be self-confident and scientifically minded. Like Leonardo da Vinci, Dürer was interested in the observable world. He trained as a goldsmith; this is likely where he gained the skills and experience needed to become a successful printmaker, a form that allowed him to demonstrate his great skill in working with line.

Dürer’s skill was clear from a young age. At thirteen, he completed a self-portrait upon which he wrote, “Here I portrayed myself in the year 1484 in a mirror when I was still a child” (as quoted in Woods, p. 54). Later self-portraits emphasized the luxurious texture of his long, flowing hair, and one of his most impressive drawings is A Hare (1502) in which Dürer masterfully depicts the sheen of a hare’s fur in watercolor.

Diirer’s woodcuts, engravings, and etchings did a great deal to raise the status of printmaking to a fine art. Two of his most well known prints are The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1497–1498) and Melancholia I (1514).


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