Albrecht Dürer

Albrecht Dürer

Style: Northern Renaissance

Lived: May 21, 1471 - April 6, 1528 (15th - 16th century)

Nationality: Germany


Albrecht Dürer was born on May 21, 1471 in Nuremberg, Germany. His family came from Hungary. The family name of Thürer was germanized when they settled in Nuremberg. His parents had eighteen children, of whom Albrecht was the second. Albrecht's brother, Hans Dürer, became an artist as well.

At the age of fifteen Dürer was apprenticed to the most important painter of the town, Michael Wolgemut. Dürer studied not only painting but also wood carving and elementary copper engraving. At the end of his apprenticeship in 1490 he started travelling. In 1492 he arrived in Colmar, intending to study under Martin Schöngauer, a well regarded painter-engraver of his time, but he found out Schongauer had died the previous year. He then travelled briefly in the Low Countries before he returned to Nuremberg.

On July 9, 1494 Dürer married Agnes Frey, the daughter of a local merchant, according to an arrangement made during his absence. In the autumn of 1494 he travelled to Italy, Venice, leaving his wife at Nuremberg. Some time in 1495 Dürer returned to Nuremberg, where he lived and worked for the next ten years, producing most of his notable prints.

Dürer was training himself in the more finely detailed and expensive copper-engraving. The Venetian artist Jacopo de Barbari came to Nuremberg for a while in 1500. He influenced Dürer with the newest developments in proportion, perspective and anatomy. A series of drawings show Dürer's experiments in human proportion, up to the famous engraving of Adam and Eve.

In 1505 he made a second visit to Italy. There he turned his hand to painting. By this time Dürer's engravings had attained great popularity and had begun to be copied. Despite the regard in which he was held by the Venetians, Dürer was back in Nuremberg by mid-1507. He remained in Germany until 1520. His reputation spread all over Europe. He was friends with all the masters of that age and Raphael exchanged drawings with Dürer.

In the summer of 1520 the desire of Dürer to secure new patronage following the death of Maximilian and an outbreak of diseases in Nuremberg, gave opportunity to his fourth and also last journey. He journeyed to the Netherlands in order to be present at the coronation of the new Emperor Charles V. He traveled to Antwerp, where he was well received and produced numerous drawings. Besides going to Aachen for the coronation, he made excursions to Cologne, Nijmwegen, 's-Hertogenbosch, Brussels, Bruges, Ghent and to Zealand. He finally returned home in July 1521, having caught an undetermined illness which afflicted him for the rest of his life.

Back in Nuremberg he worked on a series of religious pictures. In the last years of his life as an artist he produced comparatively little. Of his books, he succeeded in getting two finished and produced during his lifetime. One on geometry and perspective and one on fortification. His work on human proportions was brought out shortly after his death in 1528.

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