Albrecht Altdorfer

Last updated
Albrecht Altdorfer by Philipp Kilian Albrecht Altdorfer XVII.jpg
Albrecht Altdorfer by Philipp Kilian
Resurrection by Altdorfer, 1518 Albrecht Altdorfer 029.jpg
Resurrection by Altdorfer, 1518

Albrecht Altdorfer (c. 1480 – 12 February 1538) was a German painter, engraver and architect of the Renaissance working in Regensburg, Bavaria. Along with Lucas Cranach the Elder and Wolf Huber he is regarded to be the main representative of the so-called Danube School setting biblical and historical subjects against landscape backgrounds of expressive colours. As an artist also making small intricate engravings he is seen to belong to the Nuremberg Little Masters.

Regensburg Place in Bavaria, Germany

Regensburg is a city in south-east Germany, at the confluence of the Danube, Naab and Regen rivers. With more than 150,000 inhabitants, Regensburg is the fourth-largest city in the State of Bavaria after Munich, Nuremberg and Augsburg. The city is the political, economic and cultural centre and capital of the Upper Palatinate.

Bavaria State in Germany

Bavaria, officially the Free State of Bavaria, is a landlocked federal state of Germany, occupying its southeastern corner. With an area of 70,550.19 square kilometres, Bavaria is the largest German state by land area. Its territory comprises roughly a fifth of the total land area of Germany. With 13 million inhabitants, it is Germany's second-most-populous state after North Rhine-Westphalia. Bavaria's capital and largest city, Munich, is the third-largest city in Germany.

Lucas Cranach the Elder 16th-century German Renaissance painter and printmaker

Lucas Cranach the Elder was a German Renaissance painter and printmaker in woodcut and engraving. He was court painter to the Electors of Saxony for most of his career, and is known for his portraits, both of German princes and those of the leaders of the Protestant Reformation, whose cause he embraced with enthusiasm. He was a close friend of Martin Luther. Cranach also painted religious subjects, first in the Catholic tradition, and later trying to find new ways of conveying Lutheran religious concerns in art. He continued throughout his career to paint nude subjects drawn from mythology and religion.

Contents

Biography

Altdorfer was born in Regensburg or Altdorf around 1480.

Altdorf, Lower Bavaria Place in Bavaria, Germany

Altdorf is a municipality in the district of Landshut, in Bavaria, Germany. It is situated 4 km northwest of Landshut.

He acquired an interest in art from his father, Ulrich Altdorfer, who was a painter and miniaturist. At the start of his career, he won public attention by creating small, intimate modestly scaled works in unconventional media and with eccentric subject matter. He settled in the free imperial city of Regensburg, a town located on the Danube River in 1505, eventually becoming the town architect and a town councillor. His first signed works date to c. 1506, including engravings and drawings such the Stygmata of St. Francis and St. Jerome. His models were niellos and copper engravings from the workshops of Jacopo de Barbari and Albrecht Dürer.

Free imperial city self-ruling city that enjoyed Imperial immediacy

In the Holy Roman Empire, the collective term free and imperial cities, briefly worded free imperial city, was used from the fifteenth century to denote a self-ruling city that had a certain amount of autonomy and was represented in the Imperial Diet. An imperial city held the status of Imperial immediacy, and as such, was subordinate only to the Holy Roman Emperor, as opposed to a territorial city or town which was subordinate to a territorial prince – be it an ecclesiastical lord or a secular prince.

Niello black mixture of copper, silver, and lead sulphides

Niello is a black mixture, usually of sulphur, copper, silver, and lead, used as an inlay on engraved or etched metal, especially silver. It is added as a powder or paste, then fired until it melts or at least softens, and flows or is pushed into the engraved lines in the metal. It hardens and blackens when cool, and the niello on the flat surface is polished off to show the filled lines in black, contrasting with the polished metal around it. It may also be used with other metalworking techniques to cover larger areas, as seen in the sky in the diptych illustrated here. The metal where niello is to be placed is often roughened to provide a key. In many cases, especially in objects that have been buried underground, where the niello is now lost, the roughened surface indicates that it was once there.

Albrecht Dürer German Renaissance artist

Albrecht Dürer sometimes spelt in English as Durer or Duerer, without umlaut, was a painter, printmaker, and theorist of the German Renaissance. Born in Nuremberg, Dürer established his reputation and influence across Europe when he was still in his twenties due to his high-quality woodcut prints. He was in communication with the major Italian artists of his time, including Raphael, Giovanni Bellini and Leonardo da Vinci, and from 1512 he was patronized by Emperor Maximilian I. Dürer is commemorated by both the Lutheran and Episcopal Churches.

Around 1511 or earlier, he travelled down the river and south into the Alps, where the scenery moved him so deeply that he became the first landscape painter in the modern sense, [1] making him the leader of the Danube School, a circle that pioneered landscape as an independent genre, in southern Germany. From 1513 he was at the service of Maximilian I in Innsbruck, where he received several commissions from the imperial court. During the turmoil of the Protestant Reformation, he dedicated mostly to architecture; paintings of the period, showing his increasing attention to architecture, include the Nativity of the Virgin .

Landscape painting genre of paintings; field of work for artists

Landscape painting, also known as landscape art, is the depiction of landscapes in art – natural scenery such as mountains, valleys, trees, rivers, and forests, especially where the main subject is a wide view – with its elements arranged into a coherent composition. In other works, landscape backgrounds for figures can still form an important part of the work. Sky is almost always included in the view, and weather is often an element of the composition. Detailed landscapes as a distinct subject are not found in all artistic traditions, and develop when there is already a sophisticated tradition of representing other subjects.

Germany Federal parliamentary republic in central-western Europe

Germany, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in Central and Western Europe, lying between the Baltic and North Seas to the north, and the Alps to the south. It borders Denmark to the north, Poland and the Czech Republic to the east, Austria and Switzerland to the south, France to the southwest, and Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands to the west.

Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor Holy Roman Emperor

Maximilian I was Holy Roman Emperor from 1508 until his death. He was never crowned by the Pope, as the journey to Rome was always too risky. He was instead proclaimed Emperor elect by Pope Julius II at Trent, thus breaking the long tradition of requiring a papal coronation for the adoption of the imperial title. Maximilian was the son of Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor, and Eleanor of Portugal. He ruled jointly with his father for the last ten years of the latter's reign, from c. 1483 to his father's death in 1493.

In 1529 he executed The Battle of Alexander at Issus for Duke William IV of Bavaria. In the 1520s he returned to Regensburg as a wealthy man, and became a member of the city's council. He was also responsible for the fortifications of Regensburg.

<i>The Battle of Alexander at Issus</i> 1529 oil painting by the German artist Albrecht Altdorfer

The Battle of Alexander at Issus is a 1529 oil painting by the German artist Albrecht Altdorfer, a pioneer of landscape art and a founding member of the Danube school. It portrays the 333 BC Battle of Issus, in which Alexander the Great secured a decisive victory over Darius III of Persia and gained crucial leverage in his campaign against the Persian Empire. The painting is widely regarded as Altdorfer's masterpiece, and is one of the most famous examples of the type of Renaissance landscape painting known as the world landscape, which here reaches an unprecedented grandeur.

In that period his works are influenced by artists such as Giorgione and Lucas Cranach, as shown by his Crucifixion . In 1535 he was in Vienna. He died at Regensburg in 1538.

Giorgione Venetian Renaissance painter

Giorgione was an Italian painter of the Venetian school during the High Renaissance from Venice, who died in his thirties. Giorgione is known for the elusive poetic quality of his work, though only about six surviving paintings are firmly attributed to him. The uncertainty surrounding the identity and meaning of his work has made Giorgione one of the most mysterious figures in European art.

Vienna Capital city and state in Austria

Vienna is the federal capital and largest city of Austria, and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primate city, with a population of about 1.9 million, and its cultural, economic, and political centre. It is the 7th-largest city by population within city limits in the European Union. Until the beginning of the 20th century, it was the largest German-speaking city in the world, and before the splitting of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in World War I, the city had 2 million inhabitants. Today, it has the second largest number of German speakers after Berlin. Vienna is host to many major international organizations, including the United Nations and OPEC. The city is located in the eastern part of Austria and is close to the borders of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary. These regions work together in a European Centrope border region. Along with nearby Bratislava, Vienna forms a metropolitan region with 3 million inhabitants. In 2001, the city centre was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In July 2017 it was moved to the list of World Heritage in Danger.

The remains of Altdorfer's surviving work comprises 55 panels, 120 drawings, 125 woodcuts, 78 engravings, 36 etchings, 24 paintings on parchment, and fragments from a mural for the bathhouse of the Kaiserhof in Regensburg. This production extends at least over the period 1504–1537. He signed and dated each one of his works.

Painting

Christ taking Leave of his Mother Albrecht Altdorfer, Christ Taking Leave of His Mother (probably 1520).jpg
Christ taking Leave of his Mother
Albrecht Altdorfer: Sebastian Altar in St. Florian's Priory, Upper Austria Albrecht Altdorfer 032.jpg
Albrecht Altdorfer: Sebastian Altar in St. Florian's Priory, Upper Austria

Altdorfer was the pioneer painter of pure landscape, making them the subject of the painting, as well as compositions dominated by their landscape; these comprise much of his oeuvre. He believed that the human figure should not disrupt nature, but rather participate in it or imitate its natural processes. Taking and developing the landscape style of Lucas Cranach the Elder, he shows the hilly landscape of the Danube valley with thick forests of drooping and crumbling firs and larches hung with moss, and often dramatic colouring from a rising or setting sun. His Landscape with Footbridge (National Gallery, London) [2] of 1518–1520 is claimed to be the first pure landscape in oil. In this painting, Altdorfer places a large tree that is cut off by the margins at the center of the landscape, making it the central axis and focus within the piece. Some viewers perceive anthropomorphic stylisation -- the tree supposedly exhibiting human qualities such as the drapery of its limbs. He also made many fine finished drawings, mostly landscapes, in pen and watercolour such as the Landscape with the Woodcutter in 1522. [3] The drawing opens at ground level on a clearing surrounding an enormous tree that is placed in the center, dominating the picture. Some see the tree pose and gesticulate as if it was human, splaying its branches out in every corner. Halfway up the tree trunk, hangs a gabled shrine. At the time, a shrine like this might shelter an image of the Crucifixion or the Virgin Mary, but since it is turned away from the viewer, we are not sure what it truly is. At the bottom of the tree, a tiny figure of a seated man, crossed legged, holds a knife and axe, declaring his status in society/occupation. [4]

Also, he often painted scenes of historical and biblical subjects, set in atmospheric landscapes. His best religious scenes are intense, with their glistening lights and glowing colours sometimes verging on the expressionistic. They often depict moments of intimacy between Christ and his mother, or various saints. His sacral masterpiece and one of the most famous religious works of art of the later Middle Ages is The Legend of St. Sebastian and The Passion of Christ of the so-called Sebastian Altar in St. Florian's Priory (Stift Sankt Florian) near Linz, Upper Austria. When closed the altarpiece displayed the four panels of the legend of St. Sebastian's Martyrdom, while the opened wings displayed the Stations of the Cross. Today the altarpiece is dismantled and the predellas depicting the two final scenes, Entombment and Resurrection were sold to Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna in 1923 and 1930. Both these paintings share a similar formal structure that consists of an open landscape that is seen beyond and through the opening of a dark grotto. The date of completion on the resurrection panel is 1518.

Altdorfer often distorts perspective to subtle effect. His donor figures are often painted completely out of scale with the main scene, as in paintings of the previous centuries. He also painted some portraits; overall his painted oeuvre was not large. In his later works, Altdorfer moved more towards mannerism and began to depict the human form to the conformity of the Italian model, as well as dominate the picture with frank colors.

Paintings in Munich

The Battle of Alexander at Issus , 1529,
Wood, 158.4 x 120.3 cm Alte Pinakothek, Munich Albrecht Altdorfer, The Battle of Alexander at Issus.jpg
The Battle of Alexander at Issus , 1529,
Wood, 158.4 × 120.3 cm Alte Pinakothek, Munich

His rather atypical Battle of Issus (or of Alexander ) of 1529 was commissioned by William IV, Duke of Bavaria as part of a series of eight historical battle scenes destined to hang in the Residenz in Munich. Albrecht Altdorfer's depiction of the moment in 333 BCE when Alexander the Great routed Darius III for supremacy in Asia Minor is vast in ambition, sweeping in scope, vivid in imagery, rich in symbols, and obviously heroic—the Iliad of painting, as literary critic Friedrich Schlegel suggested [5] In the painting, a swarming cast of thousands of soldiers surround the central action: Alexander on his white steed, leading two rows of charging cavalrymen, dashes after a fleeing Darius, who looks anxiously over his shoulder from a chariot. The opposing armies are distinguished by the colors of their uniforms: Darius' army in red and Alexander's in blue. The upper half of The Battle of Alexander expands with unreal rapidity into an arcing panorama comprehending vast coiling tracts of globe and sky. The victory also lies on the planar surface; The sun outshone the moon just as the Imperial and allied army successfully repel the Turks. [5] By making the mass number of soldiers blend within the landscape/painting, it shows that he believed that the usage and depiction of landscape was just as significant as a historical event, such as a war. He renounced the office of Mayor of Regensburg to accept the commission. Few of his other paintings resemble this apocalyptic scene of two huge armies dominated by an extravagant landscape seen from a very high viewpoint, which looks south over the whole Mediterranean from modern Turkey to include the island of Cyprus and the mouths of the Nile and the Red Sea (behind the isthmus to the left) on the other side. However his style here is a development of that of a number of miniatures of battle-scenes he had done much earlier for Maximilian I in his illuminated manuscript Triumphal Procession in 1512-14. It is thought to be the earliest painting to show the curvature of the Earth from a great height.

The Battle is now in the Alte Pinakothek, which has the best collection of Altdorfer's paintings, including also his small St. George and the Dragon (1510), in oil on parchment, where the two figures are tiny and almost submerged in the lush, dense forest that towers over them. Altdorfer seems to exaggerate the measurements of the forest in comparison to the figures: the leaves appear to be larger than the horse, showing the significance of nature and landscape. He also emphasizes line within the work, by displaying the upward growth of the forest with the vertical and diagonal lines of the trunks. There is a small opening of the forest on the lower right hand corner that provides a rest for your eyes. It serves to create depth within the painting and is the only place you can see the characters. The human form is completely absorbed by the thickness of the forest. Fantastic light effects provide a sense of mystery and dissolve the outline of objects. Without the contrast of light, the figures would blend in with its surrounding environment. Altdorfer's figures are invariably the complement of his romantic landscapes; for them he borrowed Albrecht Dürer's inventive iconography, but the panoramic setting is personal and has nothing to do with the fantasy landscapes of the Netherlands [6] A Susanna in the Bath and the Stoning of the Elders (1526) set outside an Italianate skyscraper of a palace shows his interest in architecture. Another small oil on parchment, Danube Landscape with Castle Wörth (c. 1520) is one of the earliest accurate topographical paintings of a particular building in its setting, of a type that was to become a cliché in later centuries.

Printmaking

Altdorfer's etching Landscape with a city by the lake (1520s), National Museum in Warsaw Altdorfer Landscape with a city.jpg
Altdorfer's etching Landscape with a city by the lake (1520s), National Museum in Warsaw

Altdorfer was a significant printmaker, with numerous engravings and about ninety-three woodcuts. These included some for the Triumphs of Maximilian, where he followed the overall style presumably set by Hans Burgkmair, although he was able to escape somewhat from this in his depictions of the more disorderly baggage-train, still coming through a mountain landscape. However most of his best prints are etchings, many of landscapes; in these he was able most easily to use his drawing style. [7] He was one of the most successful early etchers, and was unusual for his generation of German printmakers in doing no book illustrations. He often combined etching and engraving techniques in a single plate, and produced about 122 intaglio prints altogether. Many of Altdorfer's prints are quite small in size, and he is considered to be of the main members of the group of artists known as the Little Masters. [8] Arthur Mayger Hind considers his graphical work to be somewhat lacking in technical skill but with an "intimate personal touch", and notes his characteristic feeling for landscape. [9]

Public life

As the superintendent of the municipal buildings Altdorfer had overseen the construction of several commercial structures, such as a slaughterhouse and a building for wine storage, possibly even designing them. He was considered to be an outstanding politician of his day. In 1517 he was a member of the "Ausseren Rates", the council on external affairs, and in this capacity was involved in the expulsion of the Jews, the destruction of the synagogue and in its place the construction of a church and shrine to the Schöne Maria that occurred in 1519. Altdorfer made etchings of the interior of the synagogue and designed a woodcut of the cult image of the Schöne Maria. [10] In 1529–1530 he was also charged with reinforcing certain city fortifications in response to the Turkish threat.

Albrecht's brother, Erhard Altdorfer, was also a painter and printmaker in woodcut and engraving, and a pupil of Lucas Cranach the Elder.

A Crucifixion (unusually set on the banks of a large river) by Altdorfer, c. 1512 Albrecht Altdorfer - Christus am Kreuz mit Maria und Johannes (Gemaldegalerie Alte Meister Kassel).jpg
A Crucifixion (unusually set on the banks of a large river) by Altdorfer, c. 1512

See also

Related Research Articles

Hans Baldung German artist

Hans Baldung Grien or Grün was a German artist in painting and printmaking who was considered the most gifted student of Albrecht Dürer. Throughout his lifetime, Baldung developed a distinctive style, full of color, expression and imagination. His talents were varied, and he produced a great and extensive variety of work including portraits, woodcuts, altarpieces, drawings, tapestries, allegories and mythological motifs.

Danube school art movement

The Danube School or Donau School was a circle of painters of the first third of the 16th century in Bavaria and Austria. Many also were innovative printmakers, usually in etching. They were among the first painters to regularly use pure landscape painting, and their figures, influenced by Matthias Grünewald, are often highly expressive, if not expressionist. They show little Italian influence, and also represent a decisive break with the high finish of Northern Renaissance painting, using a more painterly style that was in many ways ahead of its time. "The river valleys of Austria and western Bavaria have often been praised as the land of the "Beautiful Danube" and not in just song but in the pictorial arts as well." Rugged mountain terrain, towering fir trees and dramatic lighting effects of sunset and dawn are the main characteristics of the Danube School. Of all the artists within the Danube School, Albrecht Altdorfer is one that has mastered the landscapes of the Danube. His painting, Danube Lanscape has been dated between 1520 and 1525 which is a result from Altdorfers mature years capturing the Danube landscapes.

Alte Pinakothek Art museum in Munich, Germany

The Alte Pinakothek is an art museum located in the Kunstareal area in Munich, Germany. It is one of the oldest galleries in the world and houses a significant collection of Old Master paintings. The name Alte (Old) Pinakothek refers to the time period covered by the collection—from the fourteenth to the eighteenth century. The Neue Pinakothek, re-built in 1981, covers nineteenth-century art, and Pinakothek der Moderne, opened in 2002, exhibits modern art. All three galleries are part of the Bavarian State Painting Collections, an organization of the Free state of Bavaria.

German Renaissance cultural and artistic movement, part of the Northern Renaissance

The German Renaissance, part of the Northern Renaissance, was a cultural and artistic movement that spread among German thinkers in the 15th and 16th centuries, which developed from the Italian Renaissance. Many areas of the arts and sciences were influenced, notably by the spread of Renaissance humanism to the various German states and principalities. There were many advances made in the fields of architecture, the arts, and the sciences. Germany produced two developments that were to dominate the 16th century all over Europe: printing and the Protestant Reformation.

Urs Graf Swiss Renaissance painter and printmaker

Urs Graf was a Swiss Renaissance goldsmith, painter and printmaker, as well as a Swiss mercenary. He only produced two etchings, one of which dates from 1513 – the earliest known etching for which a date has been established. However, his woodcuts are considered of greater significance, particularly as he is attributed with the invention of the white-line woodcut technique, where white lines create the image on a black background. He also produced a few engravings, including copies of works by Martin Schongauer and Albrecht Dürer. He produced innovative drawings intended as finished works of art rather than just studies.

Old master print paper illustration by woodcut, engraving or etching

An old master print is a work of art produced by a printing process within the Western tradition. The term remains current in the art trade, and there is no easy alternative in English to distinguish the works of "fine art" produced in printmaking from the vast range of decorative, utilitarian and popular prints that grew rapidly alongside the artistic print from the 15th century onwards. Fifteenth-century prints are sufficiently rare that they are classed as old master prints even if they are of crude or merely workmanlike artistic quality. A date of about 1830 is usually taken as marking the end of the period whose prints are covered by this term.

Domenico Campagnola Italian painter and engraver

Domenico Campagnola was an Italian painter and printmaker in engraving and woodcut of the Venetian Renaissance, but whose most influential works were his drawings of landscapes.

The year 1529 in art involved some significant events and new works.

The year 1510 in art involved some significant events and new works.

Augustin Hirschvogel 16th century German artist, mathematician, and cartographer

Augustin Hirschvogel was a German artist, mathematician, and cartographer known primarily for his etchings. His thirty-five small landscape etchings, made between 1545 and 1549, assured him a place in the Danube School, a circle of artists in sixteenth-century Bavaria and Austria.

Christ taking leave of his Mother Theme in Christian art

Christ taking leave of his Mother is a subject in Christian art, most commonly found in Northern art of the 15th and 16th centuries. Christ says farewell to his mother Mary, often blessing her, before leaving for his final journey to Jerusalem, which he knows will lead to his Passion and death; indeed this scene marks the beginning of his Passion. In early versions just these two figures are usually shown, at half-length or less.

<i>Adam and Eve</i> (Dürer) 1507 painting pendants by Dürer

Adam and Eve is a pair of oil-on-panel paintings by German Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer.

Hanns Lautensack German artist

Hanns Lautensack was a German etcher and draughtsman.

<i>The Suicide of Saul</i> painting by Pieter Brueghel the Elder

The Suicide of Saul is an oil-on-panel by the Netherlandish Renaissance artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder, painted in 1562. It is currently held and exhibited at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.

World landscape

The world landscape, a translation of the German Weltlandschaft, is a type of composition in Western painting showing an imaginary panoramic landscape seen from an elevated viewpoint that includes mountains and lowlands, water, and buildings. The subject of each painting is usually a Biblical or historical narrative, but the figures comprising this narrative element are dwarfed by their surroundings.

Rest on the Flight into Egypt Religious theme popular in art

The Rest on the Flight into Egypt is a subject in Christian art showing Mary, Joseph, and the infant Jesus resting during their flight into Egypt. The Holy Family is normally shown in a landscape.

References

  1. Murray, Linda (1967). The High Renaissance and Mannerism. London, England: Thames & Hudson Ltd. pp. 246–247. ISBN   0-500-20162-5.
  2. image
  3. image
  4. Wood, Christopher W. Albrecht Altdorfer and the Origins of Landscape. The University of Chicago Press.
  5. 1 2 Dobrzynski, Judith H. (January 8, 2010). "An Epic Poem in Paint: The story of 'The Battle of Issus' and Albrecht Altdorfer". The Wall Street Journal.
  6. Murray, Linda (1967). The High Renaissance and Mannerism. London, England: Thames & Hudson, Ltd. ISBN   0-500-20162-5.
  7. "Albrecht Altdorfer: Landscape with a Double Spruce in the Foreground (1993.1097) | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art". Metmuseum.org. 2013-09-04. Retrieved 2013-12-21.
  8. Campbell, Gordon (ed.) (2009). The Grove Encyclopedia of Northern Renaissance Art. 1. Oxford University Press. pp. 33–39. ISBN   9780195334661.
  9. Hind, Arthur M. A History of Engraving & Etching From the 15th Century to the Year 1914. Dover Publications. p. 82. ISBN   9780486209548 . Retrieved 5 July 2014.
  10. Pioch, Nicolas. "Altdorfer, Albrecht".

Further reading