Albrecht Dürer: a painter′s legendary journey | Arts | DW | 19.07.2021
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Arts

Albrecht Dürer: a painter's legendary journey

Born over five centuries ago, the painter was an icon of Renaissance art in Germany. Creations inspired by his road trips are now being exhibited in Aachen.

Considered one of Germany's most influential painters, Albrecht Dürer's Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is considered one of the masterpieces of art history. Born in 1471, Dürer lived in the transitional period between the late Middle Ages and the early modern era.

It was a time of significant social upheavals that saw the church and religion increasingly losing importance. Instead, the individual came to the fore – even in art. The new image of the Renaissance man took centerstage in literature, architecture, painting and sculpture. Dürer's work reflected these great developments of the time. 

Travel as inspiration

Dürer's native Nuremberg was a center of economic and cultural life during his time. This helped the master of wood and copperplate engraving achieve early fame. The art market was also changing rapidly during this period. Dürer was financially stable, owing to a pension from the emperor, and from the sale of his paintings, for example at the Frankfurt Fair. Thus, he quickly rose to become a superstar of the European art scene – while he was still alive.

Young Hare by Albrecht Dürer

Dürer's world renowned painting, "Young Hare" (1502)

His stint as a goldsmith's apprentice helped him forge his outstanding craftsmanship. He learned to work with metal surfaces and applied this knowledge to produce his renowned copperplate engravings. Consequently, his woodcuts and copper engravings were printed in large numbers and sold well in Germany and throughout Europe. His monogram can be found on all of his works – a seal of quality, and an early forerunner of the concept of copyright. 

Work by Dürer of four riders on horses wielding various medieval weapons, reflecting the Biblical story of the four riders of the apocalypse

The "Four Riders of the Apocalypse" as Dürer envisioned them

Dürer's great passion was to travel, and it inspired his works. 500 years ago, between 1520 and 1521, he traveled through the Rhineland and what then constituted the Netherlands. He kept a travel journal that gives us an insight into how he lived, who he met, and what amazed and inspired him. 

Amongst others, he paid a visit to Aachen in October 1520 to attend the coronation of Charles V – and again in July 1521 on his journey home to Nuremberg. And the magnificent art of this road trip is now on display in Aachen to commemorate the artist’s 550th birthday. Entitled "Dürer was here. A journey becomes legend," over 190 exhibits can be viewed at the Suermondt Ludwig Museum. 

"Dürer was here. A journey becomes legend" will run from July 18 through October 24, 2021.

This article was adapted from the German by Brenda Haas

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