Albrecht Durer - Ecco Homo, from The Small Passion
Albrecht Dürer (German, Nuremberg 1471–1528 Nuremberg)
Public domain photograph of 16th-century woodblock print, free to use, no copyright restrictions image - Picryl description
Albrecht Dürer, whose work was admired and influential throughout Europe, was born in Nuremberg on 21 May 1471. His first training was as a goldsmith in his father's shop. In 1486 Dürer became an apprentice in the workshop of the painter Michael Wolgemut where he would remain for almost four years. Toward the end of his apprenticeship, he produced his first dated painting, the portrait of his father Albrecht Dürer the Elder of 1490. Same year Dürer departed Nuremberg for a four-year trip. The trip included the Netherlands, Cologne, and parts of Austria and Switzerland. Returning to Nuremberg in late May of 1494 Dürer married but forced to leave again due to an outbreak of plague in Nuremberg in August of 1494. Dürer traveled across the Alps to Venice, by way of Augsburg, Innsbruck, the Brenner pass, the Eisack valley and Trent. His Venice stay, which lasted until spring of 1495. Dürer became acquainted with artists such as Gentile and Giovanni Bellini and absorbed, often by copying, the work of Andrea Mantegna, Antonio Pollaiuolo, and Lorenzo di Credi. His awareness of and lifelong interest in the theory of human proportions also began in Venice, quite possible because of Jacopo de' Barbari. Upon his return to Nuremberg in 1495, Dürer embarked upon a career as printmaker and painter. The woodcut series, the Apocalypse, published in 1498, by reason of its innovative format, technical mastery, and the forcefulness of its imagery, made Dürer famous throughout Europe. In the summer of 1505, the plague reappeared in Nuremberg and Dürer again set out for Venice. This time, however, he arrived as a well-known artist with a reputation based on his woodcuts and engravings. From Venice Dürer apparently went to the university city of Bologna to learn about perspective and then journeyed further south to Florence, where he saw the work of Leonardo da Vinci and the young Raphael, and to Rome. Except for a few short journeys, Dürer remained in Nuremberg from 1507 until 1520. Dürer attracted the attention of Emperor Maximilian I who had visited Nuremberg in February 1512 and gave Dürer several commissions, including the marginal drawings for his prayerbook. The three so-called "Master Engravings": Knight, Death, and the Devil, of 1513, Saint Jerome in his Study, and Melancholia I both of 1514, raised the engraving technique to new heights and reflect Dürer's ongoing assimilation of Italian art and theory, and in the case of Melancholia I, Neoplatonic philosophy. In his last years, Dürer became increasingly involved in his theoretical writings. His last and most important treatise, Four Books on Human Proportion, was published posthumously on 31 October 1528. A number of painted and engraved portraits were produced in these years, but the major work is the Four Apostles, dated 1526, that was presented to the city council in Nuremberg. The Apostles John the Evangelist, Peter and Paul and the Evangelist Mark are accompanied by inscriptions warning against false prophets.
The term "Northern Renaissance" refers to the art development of c.1430-1580 in the Netherlands Low Countries and Germany. The Low Countries, particularly Flanders with cities Antwerp, Ghent, and Bruges, were, along with Florence, the most economically advanced region in Europe. As in Florence, urban culture peaked here. The common understanding of the Renaissance places the birth of the Renaissance in Florence, Italy. Rennaisance's ideas migrated to Germany from Italy because of the travels of Albrecht Dϋrer. Northern artists such as Jan van Eyck remained attached to Medieval traditions. In their paintings, Low Countries painters attempted to reproduce space, color, volume, and light as naturalistically as possible. They achieved the perfection of oil paint in the almost impossible representation of things and objects. Rather than draw upon Classical Greek and Roman aesthetics like their Italian counterparts, Northern European Renaissance artists retained a Gothic sensibility of woodblock printing and illuminated manuscripts which clearly distinguished Northern Rennaisance art from Italian. Unlike Italian artists, northern painters were not interested in rediscovering the spirit of ancient Greece. Instead, they sought to exploit the full potential of oil paint, and capture nature exactly as they found it. Unlike their Italian counterparts, who embraced a mathematically calculated linear perspective and constructed a picture from within, Dutch artists used an empirical perspective with precise observation and knowledge of the consistency of light and things. They painted as they saw and came very close to the effect of central perspective. Long before Leonardo, they invented aerial and color perspectives. More, as with real-world human vision, their far-away shapes lose contours, and the intensity of the colors fades to a bluish hue. Robert Campin (c.1378-1444), was noted for works like the Seilern Triptych (1410) and the Merode Altarpiece (1425); Jan van Eyck (1390-1441) was noted for the Ghent Altarpiece (1432) and The Arnolfini Marriage (1434); Jan Eyck's pupil Petrus Christus (c.1410-75), best known for his Portrait of a Young Girl (1470, Gemaldegalerie, Berlin); Roger Van der Weyden (1400-64) noted for his extraordinary realism as in his masterpiece Descent From the Cross (Deposition) (1435), for the Church of Notre Dame du Dehors (now in the Museo del Prado, Madrid); Dieric Bouts (1420-75) for his devotional pictures; Hugo Van Der Goes (1440-82) famous for The Portinari Altarpiece (1475) which influenced the Early Renaissance in Florence; Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516) noted for The Garden of Earthly Delights (1510-15) and other moralizing works; Joachim Patenier (1485-1524) the pioneer landscape painter; and Pieter Bruegel the Elder (c.1525-1569) known for landscape narratives such as The Tower of Babel (1563).