Albrecht Dürer (1471 – 1528)
Anthony Bertram, in a note that is a masterpiece of concision, stated: “Dürer is one of the very few artists of whom it may be said that their craftsmanship was nearly too much for their genius.”`~
His level of detail is almost insane, but he was also a radical innovator in terms of imagery.
As an illustration of his growth, stemming from troubled personal identity and the stirrings of the Reformation, consider the beautiful, albeit traditional, Sorrows:
…and compare it to the painting of Christ among the doctors, in a dazzling modern rendering from Luke 2:47, and his allegory Melancholia (below):
Dürer only took 5 days in Rome to paint Christ as a boy debating the ugly cynics, but plenty more days on preliminary sketches.
Bertram added of Dürer: “On the one hand he was the Gothic craftsman, humble, patient, painstaking, the greatest engraver of all times; on the other he was the intellectual fine gentleman of the Renaissance…he blended the high poetry of Italy with the intimate human prose of the North.”~
“Above all he overcame his private dilemmas, sublimating the tendencies which engendered them and converting his subjective impulses into artistically and socially constructive forms.”^
“My affairs will go as ordained on high.”
“Dürer has contrived…the first serious attempt to transplant the ideals of the South into northern soil.”*
Dürer “saw how in Germany he belonged to the old tradition of artist-craftsman while in Italy he was of the new tradition of culture and intellectuality. “Oh! how I shall freeze after the sun!” he wrote from Venice, “Here I am a gentleman: at home, a parasite.”‘~
And Another Thing: At the Brisbane Art Gallery in November 2021, amongst a very mixed bag of offerings, there were a great series of Dürer’s apocalyptic and biblical woodcuts circa 1496-7, featuring the Whore of Babylon, St. John on Patmos, beasts with many heads and horns, the sacrificial Lamb, and the enthroned in Heaven. Each piece is a crowded collage of wonderful narrative imagery: