Becoming the Master of German Renaissance Painting: Albrecht Durer
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Albrecht Durer (1471 – 1528) was a German-born painter, engraver, and printmaker during the Renaissance period of the Middle Ages. Durer is best known for his immaculate wood carvings, portrait paintings, and religious-themed artwork.
The Early Renaissance movement was a period in art that focused primarily on religious and mythological motifs accompanied by the idea of Humanism. In basic terms, Humanism is the study of society itself and derives its origins from Ancient Greek culture.
These ancient philosophies were mixed with modern religious ideologies to revive humanity that had recently undergone tremendous catastrophes, such as earthquakes and the Black Death plague. For the painter Albrecht Durer, not only did he help re-introduce these philosophies back into European culture, he incredibly inspired the generation of artists who succeeded him.
Lamentation for Christ
The word Renaissance means Rebirth. The artist’s primary objective at this time was to birth new life and hope back into this rebuilding world. In Western culture, there is no better example of a rebirth than in the parable of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In “Lamentation for Christ”, the scene is of Jesus Christ’s body being removed from the cross and tended to by his mourning followers after his death. Mostly all of Albrecht Durer’s drawings are richly detailed and layered with many deeper symbolic undertones. It is the Lamentation scene that all future Lamentation paintings would be compared to.
The “Lamentation of Christ” was a beloved theme in art during this time and the periods that followed. Its powerful message of the suffering endured by Jesus, followed by his resurrection, resonated with a European population that had also greatly suffered and was resurrecting themselves from the brink of death.
Self-Portrait at the Age of Twenty-Eight
Portrait painting was trendy during this period as it was the only way for a person to portray their appearance at a certain point in their lives and memorialize their memory long after death. It is something taken for granted today, but the ability to take a picture of oneself wouldn’t be invented until three centuries after Durer’s lifetime.
A portrait painting was also a powerful symbol of status within society and was something heavily sought after. For this reason, many painters such as Albrecht Durer pursued the avenue of portrait painting to make his passion for painting a viable career path.
However, when it came to Durer’s portraits and self-portraits, there is an undercurrent of the holy and sacred accompanying them, a standard description associated with Albrecht Durer’s drawings. In his self-portrait at the age of twenty-eight painting, there is a saintly quality similar to that of Da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi” or the “Christ Pantocrator” pieces.
Madonna with the Siskin
The Mother and Child symbol is a timeless motif in the art world. It has represented many things to many cultures over the years, such as love, purity, immortality, and the idea of the everlasting cycle of life and the processes of Mother nature.
During the Renaissance period, though, the symbol mainly focused on the religious idea of unconditional love represented in the relationship between the Virgin Mary and her son, Jesus Christ. This beautifully intimate relationship of a Mother’s love for their child can be instantly and universally understood.
In Durer’s depictions of the “Madonna with the Siskin”, the mother is portrayed in royal garments with a crown being placed on her head by angels, while the child sits innocently naked and wholly pure on her lap. The Madonna and child symbol has been painted by almost all of the most famous painters.
Adoration of the Trinity
One of the most interesting facts about Albrecht Durer’s art is the sheer level of detail and subtle subconscious meanings contained within his artwork. His Christian-themed paintings are of such quality that they rival other great 16th-century painters, such as Raphael, Michelangelo, and Leonardo Da Vinci.
Furthermore, one aspect where Durer’s drawings may even surpass these greats is in his use of vibrant colour. Whereas Da Vinci and Raphael oftentimes preferred a more realistic colour palette, Durer, on the other hand, used over-the-top colour tones to portray the message of divinity and the light.
Take the “Adoration of the Trinity”, for example. In the painting, Jesus Christ and all his believers are raised above heaven’s glory. Each of them is depicted in such beautifully rich colours that it becomes easy to understand what a saintly person is supposed to be and what they represent in the grand scheme.
Feast of the Rosary
If you were looking for one piece of art to describe painter Albrecht Durer’s life story as an artist, the Feast of the Rosary is that painting. This wonderful painting represents all the themes and deeper narratives held within Durer’s other body of work and is widely regarded as his most famous painting.
Perhaps the painting inspired the next generation of artists the most and received many recreations and devotions. As an artist’s role is to inspire others, the Feast of the Rosary can be seen as Durer’s most famous painting and his single most significant contribution to art.
Although many of Durer’s paintings contain similar Christian-based messages, none of his other paintings capture its essence like this. It was commissioned by Maximilian I, the King of the Holy Roman Empire, and contains several portraits of prominent people within the empire, including a self-portrait of Durer himself, hidden in the background.
Albrecht Durer may not be the most well-known painter of the time; nevertheless, he remains one of the most influential. Traces of his artistic influence can be found in many of history’s most acclaimed artists, and his impact on the Renaissance art movement is undeniable.