Art is a form of expression where people depict their ideas and emotions on different surfaces with the use of different coloring and shaping materials. There are various techniques of art as well as numerous artists, which present their masterpieces in styles and techniques, which are the most convenient and expressive to their mind. The history of art can be divided into periods, which is a peculiar feature of music and other types of fine arts. These periods are mostly driven by the predominant ideas and concepts in the society and are based on the peculiar philosophical presumptions. Despite modern art significantly differs from the one existing in the past centuries, that time would be always studied and explored by the upcoming professionals in this sphere. The reason for this is that the artists of the past incorporated rich knowledge of the techniques and styles. Moreover, the studies of the art of old ages are important because all classical genres originated from the past, which justifies this approach. This paper discusses the biography and the works of Albrecht Dürer, who is one of the most famous artists of the end of 15th and the beginning of the 16th centuries. His works are present in numerous museums around the world as role models of the classic art of the period of Renaissance and the source of inspiration. His masterpieces demonstrate significant improvement of this artistic movement because of his impact, which justifies him as a talented artist and scholar.
Albrecht Dürer is recognized as a German Renaissance artist, although his family came from Hungary. Probably, he inherited the feeling and perception of esthetics from his father, who worked as a jeweler. Being junior, Dürer characterized the philosophy of his father as: “His most earnest hope was that the high principles … would render [people] ever more worthy of divine protection and the sympathy of mankind” (’Connor and Robertson). His junior life was connected with the father’s work as he was learning the profession of a goldsmith and a jeweler. Moreover, his self-portrait made at the age of 13 proved that he had good skills in painting (’Connor and Robertson). Several years later, Dürer graduated from Lateinschule in St. Lorenz having acquired a specialty of a painter. Consequently, he decided to choose the profession, which would suit him best and bring enjoyment. For this reason, in 1486 he became an apprentice painter and woodcut designer of Michael Wolgemut (’Connor and Robertson). Wolgemut had close connections with the Church as he worked as a producer of altarpieces. Probably, it was one of the reasons explaining Dürer’s interest in Church attributes and topics discussed in the Bible. Gradually, the artist had learned all the techniques and details of art, which were known to Wolgemut. Realizing this, his patron advised him to travel around the countries, where the outstanding masters of art lived. Consequently, Albrecht Dürer decided to visit Italy, where he drowned into a list of styles, which had never been known to him before.
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Apparently, the travel to Italy had the most significant impact on Dürer because his later artworks are characterized by strong influences of Italian art. Thus, his graphics, drawings, and paintings incorporated the most influential aspects of Italian Renaissance (Albrecht Dürer Biography). Moreover, his later prints were so highly estimated by the representatives of the Orthodox Church that some of their features were borrowed (Hutchison). Likewise, some of his paintings raised sophisticated discussions among mathematicians and other scholars imprinting them in history. Thus, mathematicians admired the work “Melencolia 1”, which made them think that there were a polyhedron and a magic square in the picture (Sudbery). Likewise, the peculiar tendency of his creations is that he attempted to render the concepts discussed in the Bible by creating unified religious artworks (Price). At the same time, his impact on art is highly estimated by art critics. The reason for it is that the artist developed the topic of human proportions enhancing the actualization of the esthetic discourse throughout the period of Renaissance (Parshall). Therefore, the figure of Albrecht Dürer can truly be recognized as one of the most profound art scholars and influential artists throughout the period of Renaissance. Further sections develop this topic by means of analyzing the two artworks created by the artist.
“Knight, Death and Devil,” 1513
“Knight, Death and Devil” is an engraving created by Albrecht Dürer in 1513. The artwork can be found in the exposition of the Albertina Museum in Vienna. The engraving refers to the symbols of the Middle Ages depicting a Christian knight, who rides a horse through a narrow gorge. His horse is shown as a brave animal, which bears his rider with dignity despite his heavy armor. Under the hooves of a horse, the observer can see a dog. The knight is armed with a spear and a sword, the visor on his helmet is lifted up so one can see his pacified though serious face. Moreover, the rider looks straight forward despite he is accompanied by the grim and scary creatures from another world. Thus, Death rides beside him on an exhausted and skinny horse holding sandglass in his bony hand. Additionally, Death is braided with snakes and has no eyes, but he has a look as if he dominates in this setting.
Furthermore, there is a devil behind the rider. The devil has a spear, and his face bears a resemblance to a pig. His look is scary as if he is waiting for the rider’s fall to tear him apart and take his soul straight to hell. The bottom of the gorge is filled with bones among which one can find a lonely lizard and a dagger, which seems to have fallen from someone’s hand. These things suggest that they are the remnants of the previous riders, who had failed on their dangerous way. At the same time, the face of the knight remains calm and assured, as if he does not want to change his direction or look behind. The engraving suggests that as long as the knight is protected by God nothing happens to him.
Furthermore, the technique of the engraving means that the image is created in one tone with the predominance of shapes opposite to colors. In this sense, it resembles graphic artworks where the contours of the image are made with the ink. For this reason, the artist had to compensate the absence of the color with the detail of the objects. Therefore, the animals, the protagonist of the setting, and other creatures were depicted with an increased detalization. For instance, one can see roots of the trees along with the silhouette of a distant castle in the background. Likewise, the objects in the foreground are depicted with wrinkles, fur, cockling, and other details, which add to the real feeling of the atmosphere. Moreover, the artist gave special attention to the given faces depicting the emotions of the characters. Therefore, the observer might come to a conclusion that the outstanding technique of the artwork allows placing it among the greatest pieces of art of the period of Renaissance.
This masterpiece raises controversial feelings due to the fact that the depicted situation remains in balance. Thus, in case the knight falls, he would become a victim of the dangerous creatures. However, he seems to resist his fears and ride along this dangerous path. His horse is depicted in a brave manner assuring the observer that the knight is not obsessed with fear. At the same time, the image of the dog contrasts with that of the horse and the knight because it is depicted terrified. Thus, the dog serves as the intensifier of the tension because it adds to the atmosphere of terror. Likewise, the sandglass in Death’s hand serves as a symbol telling that everything is temporarily in the world. Consequently, the author of the engraving incorporated a deep philosophical context referring to the death on the basis of sacred Christian stories.
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“Adoration of the Magi,” 1504
“Adoration of the Magi” is a picture created by Albrecht Dürer in 1504. The artwork is present in the exposition of the Uffizi Museum in Florence. It is believed that this picture was ordered from Dürer by one of the dukes. This religious canvas bears a resemblance to the paintings of Leonardo da Vici because of the two factors. The first one is that the author based the plot of the picture on a Christian story whereas the second one is that Dürer followed Davinci’s principles of color and perspective. Thus, the artist depicted five figures on the forefront of the setting. They are the infant Jesus on the knees of his mother and the three magi. Madonna is depicted wearing accurate and decent clothes and hugging her sun. Special attention is given to their faces, which are depicted bright and full of positive emotions. Thus, the observer may conclude that the author has a peculiar attention towards the portrayal of inner emotions of the characters. In their turn, the magi from Bethlehem have expensive clothes and hold various precious presents in their hands. Among those goods are deer skins, jewelry, and household attributes. The oldest among them is depicted kneeling in from of Madonna and Jesus while giving the gifts to them. At the same time, his worried face depicts his inner state of hesitation and worry associated with the wonder seen by him. The two magi behind his back look at each other as if refusing to look at the child in order not to disgrace the miracle.
Furthermore, the viewer may notice that the figures on the front are depicted in more vivid colors as opposed to the background. One suggests that this contrast has a philosophical meaning of the new world shadowing the old one, which previously existed. However, the artist preserved his tradition of detalization creating almost a photographic picture of the setting. Thus, the viewer can see beetles, flowers, grass, various stones and trees as well as people and the sky with clouds in the background. Therefore, the enhanced detalization and color contrast allowed creating a realistic setting in the best practices of Renaissance tradition. Along with that, the profound degree of the completed rules of proportions, perspective, and details allows characterizing these aspects as a feature of Dürer’s style. Likewise, it is evident that the artist focused not on the setting but on the faces of the characters attempting to depict their inner state. Overall, the picture has a pacifying effect because the composition of the foreground is static and there are no signs of aggression. It is evident that Dürer’s style allowed him depicting every aspect of the mood of the picture in details.
Moreover, this painting suggests that one more feature of Dürer’s style is special attention to the concepts and plots told in Bible. Thus, the artist actualizes one of the most important events for Christians, which is the birth of Jesus. Therefore, this canvas may be regarded as one of the most significant artworks created by Dürer after his trip to Italy. Consequently, it is evident that the artist had overtaken and enhanced the traditions of Renaissance creating his personal artistic style.
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Summarizing the presented information, one comes to a conclusion that Albrecht Dürer is one of the most influential artists of the period of Renaissance. His personality and artworks were chosen for this analysis in order to investigate the aspects of his style and trace the connection of his life and the plots of his masterpieces. Consequently, Durer’s studies in the sphere connected with religion and his trip to Italy served as the two milestones of his life. Therefore, his works have a peculiar stress on Biblical motives depicted with an enhanced techniques influenced by the Italian Renaissance.