Albrecht Dürer

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Albrecht Dürer, 21 May 1471 - 6 April 1528, was a Nuremberg-based engraver, painter, mathematician and art theoretician representative of Northern European Renaissance art. Dürer's works, particularly his engravings, are notable for their technical precision.

Education and influences

In his youth Dürer studied at the Lateinschule in St Lorenz. He began his studies as a goldsmith and jeweller under his father, Hungarian goldsmith Albrecht Dürer, and later went on to an apprenticeship under altarpiece producer Michael Wolgemut in 1486. This apprenticeship lasted for four years, at the end of which Dürer's skill surpassed that of his master's and he was advised to travel and develop his skills.

In Nördlingen Dürer met artists of the Swabian school, whose style had been influenced by Dutch artistic design.

After marriage to merchant's daughter Agnes Frey, he travelled again, first experiencing strongly Italian influenced art in Augsburg before reaching Italy.

Dürer intended to meet prominent mathematicians as well as artists in Italy, as their scientific perspective on physiology and art informed many of the significant developments in Renaissance art of the day. Although there is no record of him having met any Italian mathematicians, nonetheless when he returned to Nürnberg, Dürer began his extensive studies on mathematics and proportion in art.

Dürer's students included Hans Baldung Grien, Hans Suss von Kulmbach, Georg Pencz, Hans Leonhard Schaufelein and Jan van Scorel.[1]


Albrecht Dürer produced a significant number of engravings and woodcuts, largely on religious themes due to commissions or as illustrations for publications.

Scholars of Dürer's works are generally careful with attributing unknown works to the artist. Whilst Dürer generally signed his works, when producing illustrations for publishers these remained unsigned. Distinguishing between unsigned woodcuts and engravings and the works of imitators and pupils requires extensive knowledge of Dürer development of style throughout his lifetime. [2].

Art theory

Dürer as humanist

Exploration of humanism increased during the Renaissance. This was reflected in the art of the period by an increase in artist self-portraiture, portraiture of secular figures, and the insertion of artists and secular donors into religious art.

Dürer as mathematician

Dürer's treatise on proportion in art, Unterweisung der Messung mit dem Zirkel und Richtscheit[3], was completed in 1523 however as he understood that it required more advanced mathematical knowledge than the average reader would be expected to have, he published a more basic treatise in four volumes in 1525. This treatise was the first non-commercial mathematics book published in German[4].


Albrecht Dürer, Unterweisung der Messung mit dem Zirkel und Richtscheit (1523) WebMuseum: Dürer, Albrecht

Alte Pinakothek Munich

Dodgson, Campbell. Catalog of Early German wand Flemish Woodcuts, British Museum (1903)

  1. Alte Pinakothek Munich
  2. Kurth, Willi. The Complete Woodcuts of Albrecht Dürer, Dover Pictorial Archive Series, 1963 (original in German, published by W&G Foyle Ltd, 1927)
  3. Albrecht Dürer, Unterweisung der Messung mit dem Zirkel und Richtscheit (1523)