Who Was Albrecht DüRer?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Albrecht Dürer was a German artist who worked during a period known as the Northern Renaissance. He is widely regarded as one of the finest artists in German history, and his work had a huge influence on European art, especially European engraving and printmaking. Copies of Dürer's work are widely published in art and history books all over the world, and many fine museums also retain several Dürers in their permanent collections. It is well worth traveling to see the art of Dürer, since he was incredibly talented in a number of artistic mediums.

Albrecht Dürer's work is widely published in art books all over the world.
Albrecht Dürer's work is widely published in art books all over the world.

Dürer was born in Nuremberg in 1471. His father was a goldsmith, and it was assumed that he would pick up the family trade. However, it became clear by age 15 that Dürer had immense potential as an artist, and his family apprenticed him to an artist to develop his skill. After his apprenticeship, Dürer took the first of several trips to Italy, where he undoubtedly met famous artists of the period and picked up skills and ideas which would appear in later work. When he returned to Nuremberg, he married and opened his own studio.

Albrecht Dürer was born in Nuremberg, Germany in 1471.
Albrecht Dürer was born in Nuremberg, Germany in 1471.

Europe was in a tumultuous period when Dürer lived. Religion was undergoing major challenges and changes as a result of the Reformation, and much of Dürer's work included religious themes, suggesting that religion was frequently on his mind. European art was also undergoing significant changes, some of which were brought about by Dürer. He brought realism to the North, for example; many of his paintings and watercolors are so detailed and perfect that they almost look like photographs, a marked difference from prevailing artistic trends in the North.

Dürer also revolutionized printmaking, by pushing the limits of this art form to create incredibly detailed and beautiful engravings and block prints. His attention to detail and precision made his prints extremely popular, suggesting to other artists that they might be able to turn a profit through printmaking as well. At the time, the traditional patron system for art was also shifting, as more members of the bourgeoisie began purchasing art, in contrast to only royalty and members of the nobility. While single paintings could fetch immense sums from members of the nobility, prints were more affordable, and they could be used to secure more patrons as a result.

In addition to being a talented painter and printmaker, Dürer was also a mathematician. During his lifetime, he published an assortment of treatises on mathematic principles, especially proportions and perspective. He also studied classical art, integrating some of the themes of ancient art into his own work while also promoting a new genre: the landscape painting. In 1528, Dürer died, leaving behind an impressive legacy which resonates in European art and culture even today.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


As far as I know, Albrecht Dürer was the first painter to make a self portrait. It was something that was never done at the time and he began this trend which caught on with other painters and artists later on. He was also a trend setter with landscape paintings.

One other thing that most people don't know about Albrecht Durer was that he wasn't just interested in Western culture, but was interested in the East as well. He painted Ottoman leaders of the time, including Sultan Suleyman and depicted Ottoman dress and customs.


@ddljohn-- I could be wrong about this but I think that most of Albrecht Durer's paintings are under protection at art museums. There might be some family owned ones that some families still have. You can get poster copies of his original paintings, but getting an original is probably difficult or not possible.


We looked at Albrecht Dürer's paintings in class last week. What I liked the most about his paitings were the animal paintings. Just like the article said, Albrecht Dürer painted very realistically. And the animal portraits he made are as realistic as it gets. It felt like the rabbit was really sitting in front of me. I could tell that the painter paid attention to every detail. It must have taken him forever to paint the fur which looks like hundreds of strokes that look like hair. It's very impressive.

If I had live during that time, I would have certainly wanted to purchase his paintings. I still would but I don't think it's possible.

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