Art e Dossier

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Art History

Albrecht Dürer : biography

He was first an apprentice in the workshop of his father, who was a goldsmith, and then in 1486 was bound to the painter and engraver Michael Wolgemut. In 1490, he set off on a long journey that would take him all over Germany and Holland, then he went to Colmar, the home town of Martin Schongaeur, the most famous German painter and engraver of the time. Next he went to Basle, which was an important centre for the graphic arts, and finally to Strasbourg (1493). In the course of these years he produced engravings, illustrations for literary works and a few portraits. He made his first trip to Italy in 1494; in Venice he became familiar with the work of Giovanni Bellini and Vittore Carpaccio, and the engravings of Mantegna and Pollaiolo. On his return to Nuremberg the following year he executed a series of watercolours and copper engravings. In 1496, he did a portrait and two polyptychs for the church of the castle of Wittenberg (1496-97) at the request of the Elector of Saxony, Frederick the Wise. In 1498, he was commissioned to execute the Paumgartner Altarpiece, which he completed in 1504 (Munich, Alte Pinakothek), the year in which he painted the Adoration of the Magi (Uffizi). Besides his painting work, he continued to do woodcuts, producing such series as the Apocalypse (1497) and the Great Passion (1498). He made a second trip to Italy in 1505, visiting Venice, Ferrara, Bologna and Rome. In Venice in 1506 he produced the Virgin of the Rose Gardens for the church of the German community in the city, San Bartolomeo di Rialto. The attention to minutiae and the realistic details made a great impression, as did the richness of the chromatic range, which created strong contrasts of warm and cold colours. Leading Venetian artists like Bellini, Giorgione and Lotto were influenced by his methods and his engravings became a rich source of compositional motifs. When he returned to Nuremberg in 1507, he worked on the Martyrdom of the Ten Thousand (1508) for the city council, the Heller Altarpiece, now lost, and the Adoration of the Most Holy Trinity by the Communion of Saints (Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum). From 1511 onwards, he dedicated himself principally to engravings: he added to the Little Passion (1509-11) series, produced the prints for Knight, Death and the Devil (1513), St Jerome in his Study (1514) and Melencolia (1514), and worked on other esoteric and erudite subjects that were a mark of his philosophical and religious culture. In 1526, he produced the large-scale panels of the Apostles (Munich, Alte Pinakothek), the dark and dramatic monumentality of which are an expression of the religious upheaval of the Reformation period.

The works