Albrecht Dürer would have been 590 years old this week on May 21st. Known for his ground breaking work with wood cut prints, Albrecht was one of the few artists of the German Renaissance that established success early in his career, with people across Europe knowing of his work in his twenties. He was friends with three of the world’s best known artists-including Raphael, Giovanni Bellini and Leonardo da Vinci. In 1512, emperor Maximilian I became a patron who helped him immensely in his career. A theorist of the German Renaissance, Albrecht helped change the art world through his study of mathematics, perspective, and ideal proportions of his subjects, as well being one of the first to bring classical motifs into Northern Renaissance ( was the Renaissance that occurred in Europe north of the Alps).
If a man devotes himself to art, much evil is avoided that happens otherwise if one is idle.-Albrecht Durer
Albrecht was his parents’ third son, and it thought that he had between 14-18 siblings, with most dying in childhood. At least one of his brothers, Hans Dürer, also became an artist, while Endres Dürer followed in his father’s footsteps as a goldsmith. Their grandfather, Anton Koberger, was also a goldsmith before leaving the trade to start what would become the largest publishing company of Germany. The company grew to have over 24 printing-presses, as well as offices in Germany and abroad ,with their famous paper being the Nuremberg Chronicle, published in 1493. Containing over 1,809 woodcut illustrations, and it’s thought that Albrecht may have worked on some of them, as documents show that he spent some time in the area.
Albrecht was traveling across Europe showing his paintings at age 23, he had to cut his trip short and returned home for his arranged marriage to Agnes Frey, the daughter of a prominent brass worker. Albrecht did not mention her often in his journals, calling her an “old crow” and describing her as a “miserly shrew with a bitter tongue.” Some scholars have said that she helped him to an early grave. They had no children.
Albrecht’s legacy has lived on throughout the centuries, his work becoming an inspiration as well as a learning resource for many artists to follow. Albrecht Durer died when he was 56 on April 6th, 1528 in his home city of Nuremberg, Germany with all of his possessions going to his wife. After her death, their home was sold and has since been turned into a museum, where the public is invited to see and take a step into his life almost 600 years ago.
Just this week, the Metropolitan Museum Of Art in New York City shared an informational video about Albrecht and two of his wood cut prints that they have on display. You can watch it at this link.