In the second part of my article on Durer I will be considering further aspects of Durer and the Milieu he participated in Nuremberg and in Germany itself. Craig Harbison in his book on the Northern Renaissance offers some insights into Durer and his art.
” In his early 20’s the great German painter and Printmaker Albrecht Durer drew a remarkable penetrating self-portrait of his face and right hand .this was just one of a series of 6 observing changing self images”. .
” (Melancholia) this complex detailed engraving has thus often been viewed as a kind of elaborate philosophically based image”. .
Harbison makes reference to the Religious implications of Durer’s art which was replete with many images of Christ and the Madonna.
” Durer is exceptional in more ways than one. Many Northern artists portray themselves as identical with their craft. Their approach to painting tradition is practical and actual not theoretical” .
” In taking Communion the faithful fully remembered Christ’s sacrifice. They did not repeat it. Albrecht Durer alluded to all these issues in his Last Supper woodcut of 1523″. .
Harbison makes comparison with images of the Last supper and Durer’s importance in drawing religious images with their connotations.
” A viewer who knew either Durer’s own earlier portrayals of the Last supper or typical examples by his contemporaries would understand this commemorative nature of this gathering”. .
Durer a Lutheran supported the reformation and used his art to represent the development and struggle of Luther and his supporters against the oppressive State religion.
” Durer’s response to the first iconoclastic riots was to present his art with a renewed sense of human Honesty”. .
” Durer’s image is about Art and aesthetics as well as theological reform. He intended to use his formidable artistic powers to present religious truth in a newly refined and austere simple life”. .
Harbison continues his commentary on aspects of the Reformation.
” Among the changes effected by the reformation saints were almost universally excluded from protestant Art. rather than venerating religious figures from the past protestants were encouraged to admire and emulate the Leaders of their own day”. .
” When Albrecht Durer decided to portray one of Luther’s most intellectually accomplished followers Philip Melanchton he did not resort to such obvious tactics”..
Harbison compares Durer with the great Flemish Painter Roger Van Der Weyden.
” Durer’s engraving also conveys a message of the timelessness in the position of the sitter arranged in pure profile like an ancient or Renaissance Medal. in that sense Durer was like Roger Van der Weyden before him representing his ideals as much as an individual man”. .
” In the introduction to this book we learned that Albrecht Durer’s deep philosophical self consciousness set him apart from his more practical , craft centred contemporaries”. .
Harbison in conclusion comments on Durer’s intellectual capacity as if this was abnormal for a Northern artist.
” Durer had for a Northerner an unusually Intense , Intellectual and theoretical interest in Italian renaissance culture and classical heritage” ..
” For the Northern artist Durer, the pursuit of artistic perfection in these two Bodies (Adam and Eve 1504) was not an end in its self”. .
Norbert Wolf now considers Durer’s art and its influence on Germany and the Flemish countries of the Netherlands , Holland and Belguim.
” Durer was undoubtedly a master of the very highest order who traced an arc from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance in a manner beyond compare”..
” He was the first German artist to write about his own life , he was the first to grant autonomy to the genre of the self-portrait, he carried the watercolour and the print early on to artistically and technically outstanding heights”. .
Wolf comments now on aspects of Durer’s watercolour Technique.
” Above all however Durer’s watercolour technique now assumed a boldness of such spontaneity that some Modern art Historians have felt compelled to draw comparisons with the Plein Air of Impressionism( Which is rubbish and nonsense of course) with Cezanne and with Asiatic Ink Drawing ( Pure subjective mutterings from academics who will say anything to convince an unsuspecting readership)”. .
” The watercolours that Durer brought back from his first Italian journey however also rank among the most Beautiful of their Genre”. .
That completes the Second part of my article on Albrecht Durer. In Part 3 I will conclude with further discussion on one of the greatest Artists and Scholars operating in Germany in the 15th and 16th Centuries.
- THE ART OF THE NORTHERN RENAISSANCE CRAIG HARBISON: PG.22
- DURER: TASCHEN BOOKS. NORBERT WOLF.PG.7