ALBRECHT DURER

29 March 2011

[Picture of St Christopher]Albrecht Dürer blew me away when I was studying art history. OK, you look through his works (and there are a lot out there), and you see great skill, and possibly natural artistic talent — all the usual. What knocked me out about his was that he was born in 1471 and died in 1528.  That’s a long time ago, yet his style is far more modern to my mind.

I’d say he was ahead of his times.  He lived a long time for those days, although young by our standards, so I reckon he lived well. At least he managed to miss getting the plague.

[Durer's mary Praying oil painting]I laughed when I saw his St Christopher from 1521. It was the one in the flyleaf to my Missal as a boy. It was the medal on my mother’s car key ring.  This was a universally known image.  I wondered how many people knew the image, but not the artist.

I saw the St. Jerome in London, but missed out on “The Adoration of The Magi” when I was last at the Uffizi.

What was superb about Durer, from an art history standpoint was that he brings everything together — the trips to Italy that brought together southern and northern styles, the Roman Catholic and the Reformation, the developments in printing and reproduction methods and science and crafts behind making art, the architecture, and the change in patronage from the Church to secular and state.

I loved his books on proportion (something I hold very dear) and on measurement. He was a clever guy.

I also like the fact that his self-publicity was admired by aspiring young chaps like Titian and even Raphael.  He was a real celebrity. Look at his self-portraits, he was a good-looking man. 

Durer was the Johnny Depp of his day.

He was a good and astute businessman, keeping excellent accounts, which has proved to have been of tremendous value to the historian.  If you are looking to study the Renaissance or art, Durer is a fabulous starting point. I really do not “get” why he is not better known today — he’d make an excellent subject for a movie.

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