Albrecht Durer was a towering influence on Northern Renaissance art especially in Germany and the Low Countries. He was also affected by Italian Art as Michael Levy points out in his Giotto-Cezanne a Concise History of Painting.
” Italian Art also profoundly affected Durer , not only in his work but in his high conception of the artist”. .
” He visited Italy twice and his life was one long journey towards new scientific facts towards a profound synthesis of Life and Art”. .
Levy shows how Durer was Court Painter to the Emperor Maximilian .
” Though Court Painter to the Emperor Maximilian and later to the young Charles V he received little active encouragement in the self-imposed task which he carried out in Provincial Nuremberg (The Town of his Birth)”. 
” He presents himself not as a humble craftsman but elegant fashionable even vain the ideal painter as Leonardo Da Vinci wrote of him , at ease and dressed in the clothes he fancies”. .
Levy comments that Durer’s greatness comes from his woodcuts and Engravings , his knowledge of Geometry and other Sciences like Biology put him in the same category as Leonardo for his wide knowledge of Science and the Humanities.
” Through his woodcuts and engravings Durer’s influence was colossal in Germany and it extended to Italy. His compositions and his imagery inspired direct copies , vague derivations or helped other artists to discover their own talent”. .
Peter and Linda Murray in their Art of the Renaissance assert Durer’s greatness in his innovations as an engraver and a Revolutionary in his artistic practices.
” Incomparably the greatest artist to practice extensively as an engraver and the heir to all the Technical advances made in Germany was Albrecht Durer who made some 200 woodcuts and 100 line-engravings with both dry point and etching on Iron”. .
” His first successes came rapidly after his journey to Italy. the elector of Saxony visited Nuremberg in 1496 and was immediately impressed with Durer’s Genius”. .
” During these years he also established his supremacy in graphic art which for him had certain advantages over painting”. .
The Murray’s comment on Durer’s great mind together with his quick thinking which of course aided him in his artistic Oeuvre .
” For an artist like Durer who combined great rapidity of thought with teeming inventiveness a medium of expression which allowed him to work out his ideas with speed and completeness was a necessity “. .
” In 1492 he issued the Apocalypse. This was the earliest book issued by an artist as his sole responsibility and it set a new type for books”. .
The Murrays explain how in 1500 Durer worked to achieve certain theoretical questions.
” The year 1500 appears to have been a turning point for about then Durer began his move towards theory”. .
” The apocalypse ranks with Leonardo’s Last Supper and Michelangelo’s Sistine chapel as a supreme work of art. The fruit of a spontaneous genius using all the resources of tradition yet treating the subject in a totally new way”. .
The Murrays explain that when Durer arrived in Venice for a second time he was treated as a great Humanist scholar.
” When Durer arrived in Venice for the second time in the summer of 1505 he was no longer the poor , unknown student He was rich , famous and sought after . He mixed with humanists , scholars Muscians and connoisseurs”. .
Durer was a great Humanist scholar versed in Mathematics Latin and Humanism Literature.
” He studied Mathematics and Geometry , Latin and Humanist Literature. He consorted not with his fellow artists but with humanists and scholars- a change in his whole mode of life and thought traceable directly to the influence of Leonardo Mantega and to the example of Bellini (The great Italian masters)”..
” By 1520 he was settled in his Lutheran conversion but still continued in a religious half-world without severing his connection with Catholicism. He had became a court painter in 1512 and it was to get his pension and status conferred by the new Emperor Charles v that in 1520 he made a journey to the Netherlands”. .
The Murrays make their final comments on Durer’s mastery of Art in 15th and 16th Century Germany .
” The mainspring of his life and work is to be found in the basic Dichotomy of his mind. A patient and humble observer of realistic detail using as a best loved technique demanding an exacting and objective accuracy. He was also a visionary , he was imbued with the idea of the artist as a creator inspired by God”. .
” Art was un teachable mastery yet he sought to rationalise his inspiration by principles and he recognised that both unrestrained fantasy and the impulsive imitation of nature were not enough and that Art must be controlled by knowledge”. .
This completes the first part of my article on Albrecht Durer the great Humanist and Visionary in 15th and 16th Century Germany. In Part 2 I will continue to explore the genius that was Durer.
- FROM GIOTTO-CEZANNE A CONCISE HISTORY OF PAINTING:MICHAEL LEVY.PG.83-4
- THE ART OF THE RENAISSANCE: PETER AND LINDA MURRAY.PG.190.