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By Maria Peitcheva
Albrecht Durer: 255 Colour Plates
Copyright © 2016 by Maria Peitcheva
Albrecht Dürer was undoubtedly the most significant painter and engraver of the Northern Renaissance. Living in Nuremberg, equidistant city between Netherlands and Italy, he found inspiration in the two most important centers of art at his time. But instead of simply imitating what the others painters do, Dürer goes own way of discoverer. For example, he was the first artist who painted a self-portrait and the first who make of landscape painting an independent picture.
Although Dürer lived five hundred years ago, today we are happy that many of his works have survived. While he was alive, Dürer has published several hundred engravings on which are appeared his initials. At least sixty of his paintings have also survived, and a few other which led art historians dispute whether they are from him. It is impossible today to know how many of his works are lost, but those that have survived, give us a relatively complete view of the range of his work. Dürer as rule spent much of his time as a printmaker and often complained that working in oils was time-consuming and badly paid. Finally, there are a thousand of his drawings and watercolors.
The range and variety of his work is just amazing. His woodcarvings and engravings made him great and famous all over Europe, and he is commonly considered the best master in this area. As a painter, Dürer has the equal success as in the paintings of religious topics, also in those with secular topics. He painted portraits as well as altars. His drawings and watercolors even today strike us with a variety of techniques and were painted with an almost phenomenal precision.
To summarize in just few words - Dürer is one of the most prominent figures for the development of the whole European painting.
Dürer was the second son of the goldsmith Albrecht Dürer the Elder, who had left Hungary to settle in Nuremberg in 1455, and of Barbara Holper, who had been born there. Dürer began his training as a draughtsman in the goldsmith's workshop of his father. His precocious skill is evidenced by a remarkable self-portrait done in 1484, when he was 13 years old, and by a Madonna with Musical Angels, done in 1485, which is already a finished work of art in the late Gothic style. In 1486, Dürer's father arranged for his apprenticeship to the painter and woodcut illustrator Michael Wohlgemut, whose portrait Dürer would paint in 1516. After three years in Wohlgemuth's workshop, he left for a period of travel. In 1490 Dürer completed his earliest known painting, a portrait of his father that heralds the familiar characteristic style of the mature master.
Dürer's years as a journeyman probably took the young artist to the Netherlands, to Alsace, and to Basle, Switzerland, where he completed his first authenticated woodcut, a picture of St Jerome Curing the Lion. During 1493 or 1494 Dürer was in Strasbourg for a short time, returning again to Basle to design several book illustrations. An early masterpiece from this period is a self-portrait with a thistle painted on parchment in 1493.
At the end of May 1494, Dürer returned to Nuremberg, where he soon married Agnes Frey, the daughter of a merchant. In the autumn of 1494 Dürer seems to have undertaken his first journey to Italy, where he remained until the spring of 1495. A number of bold landscape watercolors dealing with subjects from the Alps of the southern Tirol