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Durero. Obras maestras de la Albertina
Catalogue

Durero. Obras maestras de la Albertina

Dürer. Masterpieces from the Albertina

Madrid 3/2/2005 - 5/29/2005

Dürer. Masterpieces from the Albertina analyses the career of Albrecht Dürer (Nuremberg 1471-1528) through a chronological and thematic arrangement which focuses on his artistic preoccupations and the versatility of his creative genius. A tireless observer of reality, Dürer was also a highly reflexive artist. His work combines the German world, with its detailed, almost scientific gaze, with the Italian one in which Man was the measure of all things.

The 58 drawings and the 29 prints in the exhibition have been lent by the Albertina in Vienna. This collection was founded in 1776 by Duke Albert von Sachsen-Teschen and is now one of the most important collections of graphic art in the world. The exhibition also includes the four paintings by Dürer in the collection of the Museo del Prado: the Self-portrait, Adam and Eve and the Portrait of an Unknown Man.

Sponsored by:
Winterthur Foundation
In collaboration with:
Comunidad de Madrid

Multimedia

Exhibition

Self-examination and study

Self-examination and study
Self portrait at the age of Thirteen
Alberto Durero
1484
Silverpoint, 27.3 x 19.5 cm
Viena, Albertina Museum

This first section of the exhibition reveals Dürer's exceptional gifts during his early years of training. From the outset, the artist was extremely interested in the depiction of his own image, which he used to convey his idea of himself or the way he wished to be seen by others. As a consequence of his youthful artistic preoccupations, he made contact with people and places who could help him to achieve artistic excellence beyond the limits of his native Nuremberg. The young Dürer thus made a sort of apprenticeship journey around the Upper Rhine in order to learn as much as possible about German art of his day, as well as the north of Italy. There he came into direct contact with Quattrocento art, particularly with classical motifs and subjects, all of which would profoundly influence his work. During his travels, Dürer took careful note of the landscape, its forests, mountains, rivers and cities, in a process which resulted in his unique ability to convey the natural world.

The Recreation of Nature

The Recreation of Nature
St. Jerome Penitent in the Wilderness
Alberto Durero
Engraving, 31.5 x 22.3 cm
c. 1496
Viena, Albertina Museum

This second section includes the artist's most important copies of nature, as well as its depiction in his religious prints. At the outset of his career, Dürer made numerous landscape drawings. The regions that he travelled through on his study trips were the subject of his attentive gaze, while these sketches would later be reworked and used in a number of his prints in which a religious subject was depicted in a highly realistic natural setting. Dürer thus recreated the natural world created by God with extraordinary richness and subtlety. The artist formulated an intellectual vision of landscape, as well as of animals and plants, representing them as if they were still lifes captured under the light of the studio.

The Art of the Print

The Art of the Print
Adam and Eve
Alberto Durero
Engraving, 25.2 x 19.5 cm
1504
Viena, Albertina Museum

This section is devoted to Dürer's prints, one of the most brilliant aspects of his artistic activities. Using a variety of different printmaking techniques, Dürer achieved an unprecedented level of technical and conceptual mastery, with the result that his prints are masterpieces on a level with works in any other technique. Dürer's fame as a printmaker was internationally acknowledged, while his prints were imitated and copied until well into the 17th century, inspiring numerous other works of art. Dürer took the tonal possibilities of the woodcut to astonishing limits, while his mastery of the burin meant that his engravings were fully autonomous works of art. The result is a series of independent images which the artist took with him on his travels to sell or give away as gifts. They reveal his unique assimilitation of Renaissance art, combined with the Germanic tradition. These prints, which can undoubtedly be considered masterpieces, reveal the meticulous nature of Dürer's creative process, sometimes returning to the same subject on numerous occasions over the years until he achieved its perfect expression. They also express the modern nature of Dürer's thought processes, which converted what in principal might be considered humble works on paper into true expressions of the Humanistic thought of his day.

Devotional Images

Devotional Images

The fourth section reveals how, in a manner unparalleled in Central Europe, Dürer assimilated the crucial changes taking place in the use and forms of religious imagery, marking the transition from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. His prints offer a new type of reading in that they illustrate both the holy text and express a new religiosity. While previously such images were merely a visualisation of the religious narrative, they now became bearers of moral, emotional and expressive values through a notably realistic and expressive mode of representation. The event depicted thus conveyed itself to the devout viewer in a highly direct way, influencing his or her religious sentiments. Among Dürer's religious prints, and in addition to his major pictorial commissions for churches are chapels, are The Apocalypse, The Life of the Virgin and The Great Passion.

Proportion and the Nude

Proportion and the Nude

This section looks at a key aspect of Dürer's work and one to which he devoted much of his artistic activities. His approach to the nude was not a unitary one, as in the rest of his work. On the one hand, the artist was interested in the depiction of human beauty, while also seeking its correspondence in reality: in the formal types to be found in classical sculpture as well as in the flesh and blood figures of his contemporaries. Lastly, we also find a desire to express a series of concepts through images, of which the most important is the Humanist idea of man as the centre of creation, alongside other moral and religious ones. Dürer created a broad range of nudes in his art, widely varied in their formal and moral aspects. These include wicked women tempting men, classical heroines such as Lucretia committing suicide, mythological figures boldly presenting their physical charms, and Adam and Eve as Apollonian and rather distant figures at the moment just prior to their Fall, or as a closely united couple assuming the consequences of their actions.

Drawing and Painting

Drawing and Painting
Portrait of the Artist’s Father
Alberto Durero
Silverpoint, 28.4 x 21.2 cm
1484
Viena, Albertina Museum

This section brings together studies from life of the figures and details which the artist later incorporated into his finished paintings. In many ways, Dürer's painting is a reflection of his drawing, and it can be said that he painted as he drew. His preparatory drawings are like small paintings and are in fact created using a similar technique in which the brush is an instrument that defines the volumes through wash, as well as the line. Dürer prepared his papers in the same way that he prepared his canvases or panels, colouring them to give the richness of effect found in a painting, again following Italian practice of the time. Each drawing and each detail has that sense of form and body created through volume and light which is to be found in the finished painting.

Portraits

Portraits
Study of the Head of an Old Man
Alberto Durero
Brush, 41.5 x 28.2 cm
1521
Viena, Albertina Museum

The penultimate section of the exhibition is devoted to the portrait, a genre in which Dürer worked throughout his career, although most notably towards the end. The works on show in this section reveal his skills as a portraitist, capable of capturing both the exterior appearance and inner character of the sitter. Executed in a variety of techniques, they offer a wide range of types, in which the sitter is, however, always depicted with a restrained expression and not looking directly at the spectator (in contrast to the artist's self-portraits). Among the most important undertakings for a painter in the Early Modern period was that of depicting the monarch. In this sense, Dürer was outstanding as a portraitist and drew the Emperor Maximilian I from life, later producing a painted portrait and then creating and disseminating his official image through prints.

The Empire and the Reformation

The Empire and the Reformation
The Emperor Maximilian I
Alberto Durero
Black, red and white chalk, 38.1 x 31.9 cm
1518
Vienna, Albertina Museum

The exhibition ends with the last years of Dürer's life which can be used to summarise his entire career: a continual shift between small and large scale, between intimate and public, drawing and painting, imitation of nature and intellectual creation, mythology and religion. During these years, Dürer took on exceptionally important, propagandistic projects for Maximilian I. These offer a striking contrast with the sketches that he made during his trip to the Low Countries, as well as some other later works in which it is possible to detect his sympathies towards Luther's Reformation.

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