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Albrecht Durer Drawings


It's impossible to talk about art - and drawings especially - without Albrecht Dürer (Nuremberg, Germany, 21 May 1471 – Nuremberg, Germany, 6 April 1528) (by the way, his correct name is written as Dürer, in the German way. But I use Durer in the English way as well. The "ü" is a different letter and sound from the "u" in German as you know...)

Anyhow, here are some superb drawings from this master of western art who lived in the period of the Church division (Luther, Calvin, do they remind anything to you?): the early 1500s (Luther - an Augustinian monk who went away from his master's teaching "God, who made you without you, cannot save you without you", Luther's , we were saying, official rejection of the Roman Catholic Church, in the period of 1517-1522) . A shocking time which impacted everybody. Even Durer stopped and slowed down his activity worried about what was going on...He died only a few years later...quiet young, we would say today, "only" 56 years old.

Albrecht Dürer Drawings

Albrecht Durer drawing
Portrait of his mother, 1514. I am always moved when I see a great artist giving time to his relatives (like Rembrand with his son and wife)- But we have a great knowledge of her mother's death by Dürers own words:
“Now you must know that in the year 1513, on a Tuesday in Cross-week, my poor unhappy mother, whom I had taken under my charge two years after my father’s death, because she was then quite poor, and who had lived with me for nine years, was taken deathly sick on one morning early, so that we had to break open her room; for we knew not, as she could not get up, what to do. So we bore her down into a room, and she had the sacraments in both kinds administered to her, for every one thought that she was going to die, for she had been failing in health ever since my father’s death. And her custom was to go often to church; and she always punished me when I did not act rightly, and she always took great care to keep me and my brothers from sin; and, whether I went in or out, her constant word was, ‘In the name of Christ;’ and with great diligence she constantly gave us holy exhortations, and had great care over our souls. And her good works, and the loving compassion that she showed to every one, I can never sufficiently set forth to her praise. This my good mother bore and brought up eighteen children; she has often had the pestilence and many other dangerous and remarkable illnesses; has suffered great poverty, scoffing, disparagement, spiteful words, fears, and great reverses: yet she has never been revengeful. A year after the day on which she was first taken ill ... my pious mother departed in a Christian manner, with all sacraments, absolved by Papal power from pain and sin. She gave me her blessing, and desired for me God’s peace, and that I should keep myself from evil. And she desired also St. John’s blessing, which she had, and she said she was not afraid to come before God. But she died hard; and I perceived that she saw something terrible, for she kept hold of the holy water, and did not speak for a long time. I saw also how Death came, and gave her two great blows on the heart; and how she shut her eyes and mouth, and departed in great sorrow. I prayed for her, and had such great grief for her that I can never express. God be gracious to her! Her greatest joy was always to speak of God, and to do all to his honor and glory. And she was sixty-three years old when she died, and I buried her honorably according to my means. God the Lord grant that I also make a blessed end, and that God with his heavenly hosts, and my father, mother, and friend, be present at my end, and that the Almighty God grant us eternal life! Amen. And in her death she looked still more lovely than she was in her life.”

Albrecht Durer drawing
Praying hands by Dürer, 1508, Albertina Vienna

Albrecht Durer drawing
Hans Hoffman (a German painter and Durer follower- about 1545/50-1591/2), made a own copy of a own copy of a Dürer self portrait, in 1576. Dürer made the original drawing when he was about 12-13 years old.
This is a note by Hoffman 'On 4 February 1576 I made this portrait from the image drawn by the widely famed Albrecht Dürer inscribed in his own hand thus [in imitation of Dürer's handwriting]: I drew this myself from a mirror in the year 1484, when I was still a child.'. British Museum
The same Hoffman also made an own painting of a rabbit on the famous watercolour by Durer. See below.

albrecht durer drawing and watercolour Hare, 1502, Albertina, Wien.
Durer loved animals and he made many drawings and watercolour of them. This is perhaps his most famous animal drawing which he then coloured with watercolours and probably other water pigments (gouache-like). Durer drew it from real life from a model kept in a locked room.

Hans hoffman painting after Durer' hareHans Hoffman own painting after Durer's hare, 1585. Artists take inspiration from other artists...with good results, we would say today. But look at the grass on the bottom right corner: it looks like it's made out of plastic....and the general impression is that the plants are also too rigid and plastic overall, albeit very much detailed.

Albrecht durer watercolour
Study of a crane wing, 1512, watercolour and gold on pergamen, Albertina, Wien
Well, sorry, it's not really a drawing but a wonderful watercolour study on how to paint feathers. Expert doubt the origin, it might be a copy of an original Durer watercolor...






Read the following exceprt from a 1906 book:

Like other artists of his time, and even of much later periods, he did not engrave his own drawings.
He may, of course, have engraved a few blocks, but most, if not all of the wood engravings signed by Durer, were executed by Jerome Rock.
Perhaps the most peculiar characteristic of
Durer's designs was the portrayal of scenes and figures of ancient history and myth in well-defined imitation of his own surroundings and the conditions of life then existing.

(Engraving for Illustration, by Joseph Kirkbride, 1903)



Albrect Durer engraving
Melancholy, 1514, engraving.
Melancholy was an attribute of genious during this time. Perhaps we would call it depression today. This engraving is full of symbols. Move the mouse on the pictures to see the magic square for instance. The magic square was thought to be a remedy to melancholy.



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Return from Albrecht Durer drawings back to the master of western art homepage

British Museum;
Albrecht Dürer, in the series "Klassiker der Kunst", Rizzoli, 1968.





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