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The source of Dürer's art

May 24, 2012

For the first time in over forty years rare works by Nuremberg artist Albrecht Dürer, have been brought together in his hometown.

Woman looking at Dürers paintings in the Nuremberg gallery.
Der frühe Dürer im Germanischen NationalmuseumImage: Germanischen Nationalmuseum Nürnberg

Albrecht Dürer is Germany's best-known Renaissance artist. He was the first German artist who, during his lifetime, enjoyed wide recognition all over Europe. Many consider him a genius, not just because of his artistic output, but also because of his acute interest in art history. In 1484, at just 13, Dürer painted his self-portrait, that is today one of the oldest and best-known drawings by a child. Be it in his paintings, engravings, woodcuts or for his work as an art theorist, Dürer always left an impression. He created magnificent chandeliers, goblets, table fountains and even painted altars. But the artist was also a shrewd businessman, a diplomat and later a city councilor - further demonstrating just how multifaceted he was.

The source of his art

Today, Dürer's portraits are housed in many of the world's most famous museums. A highlight in Nuremberg is his, ”Self-portrait in a fur trimmed coat,” which normally hangs in Munich's Alte Pinakothek and is considered by some as a kind of German Mona Lisa. The loan of the painting for the exhibition sparked much controversy amongst art experts, who feared transporting the work could cause it major damage. Indeed some of Dürer's best known paintings won't be presented in Nuremberg for this very reason.

Fragility of Dürer's works

The fragile state of Durer's works makes up the essence of one entire section of this exhibition - The Dürer Lab. Here a virtual presentation displays the findings of a three-year research project . The results are the outcome of new technologies utilised to research the authenticity and object history of Dürer's work. The research focused on works that are today housed in museums in Paris, Madrid and Munich.

Dürer pictures in the Nuremberg gallery.
The exhibit gives an insight into historical dialogue surrounding Germany’s most famous Renaissance artist.Image: Germanischen Nationalmuseum Nürnberg

Rarely seen works present

Nevertheless, the large number of pictures presented in Nuremberg make a visit well worthwhile.  Among the highlights is an ink self-portrait, dating back to 1492-93. This is the last time this light-sensitive sheet will be on public display in Germany for some years to come. Also present are, ”The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” a series of 11 woodcuts that marked Dürer's breakthrough as an artist, and international loans such as  the "Haller Madonna" from the National Gallery of Art in Washington. Indeed fine engravings, woodcuts and manuscripts give the viewer an invaluable insight into the early work of this remarkable artist.

Contemporaries included

The early works of Dürer have a special focus at this exhibition. Of the 200 exhibits, 150 are by him, the rest include works by contemporaries the likes of Hans Pleydenwurff, Michael Wolgemut and Martin Schongauer. The exhibition, which cost around $2 milllion (1.5 million euros), is indeed a treat for all art lovers.

Author: Thomas Seene/bos
Editor: Jessie Wingard