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Albrecht Durer and his legacy
The graphic work of a renaissance artist

The British Museum
Room 5
5 December 2002 – 23 March 2003-01-07
Admission £6 (£3 concessions)

This major exhibition at the British Museum examines Dürer's development as a graphic artist. Over 200 works on display include the iconic Adam and Eve, his famous Rhinoceros and the colossal Triumphal Arch.
Albrecht Durer (1471–1528) was in a sense the first truly international artist. Printmaking was the necessary medium of German popular culture just as it was the essential, international conduit of Renaissance iconography and ideas. Dürer saw how to exploit the new technologies of printing to ensure that his works were known. He was perhaps the first to realise the freedom this mass medium offered the artist: he could design, publish and sell his own woodcuts and engravings. The AD monogram became a trademark recognised and respected world-wide. His drawings and his prints, on which his reputation was built, are at the heart of this exhibition, the first to be devoted to him in Britain for more than 30 years.

Dürer's printed images tap into the new knowledge he got from Renaissance Italy - not just perspective but the rediscovery of the classical nude and pagan myth - and fuse it with older, lower sources, making an art that deploys Renaissance aesthetics to some pretty populist ends.
As a prelude to the Museum’s 250th anniversary year in 2003, the exhibition will celebrate the superlative collection of Dürer prints, drawings and watercolours in The British Museum, many of which were Sir Hans Sloane’s original bequest to the Museum in 1753 - and is supplemented by around 50 important loans from other collections including the National Gallery, the Royal Collection, the Ashmolean Museum and star pieces from Berlin and Vienna.
Two superb drawings, the Albertina's Self-portrait as a thirteen-year old and the world famous Praying Hands, have never before been displayed in this country.

The aim of the exhibition is to examine Dürer's extraordinary achievements as a draughtsman and printmaker during his own lifetime and to look at how the artist's widely-disseminated and innovative imagery influenced artists and craftsmen for centuries to come. Dürer was an accurate, loving student of nature; his art is full of meticulous, captivating depictions of vegetation, animals, even a clod of earth. His landscape drawings, such as Landscape with an Alpine Pool (c 1495-6) can easily be mistaken for 19th-century watercolours. He drew and made prints of animals of all kinds: a walrus, a lion, a rhinoceros. Yet his inexhaustible ingenuity always came back to universal human images, to expressive metaphors for the anguish of existence. There is no image that quite communicates anxiety like Dürer's Knight, Death and Devil (1513).

The exhibition begins with an examination of the artist’s revolutionary approaches to self-portraiture and looks at the differing ways that other artists have represented and constructed his image over the centuries. In 1500 Albrecht Dürer painted himself in the guise of a living god. Only natural for a man who combined populism and spirituality, says Jonathan Jones. The next sections follow the chronology of Dürer's life, with an emphasis on a particular period or project in each. They include his early years in Nuremberg; his first visit to Italy which stimulated him to produce the earliest-known group of watercolour landscapes drawn from nature to have survived in the history of western art; the production of his virtuoso engraving Adam and Eve in 1504 with its numerous related studies; his work for the Emperor Maximilian including the massive Triumphal Arch – one of the largest prints ever produced - and his three enigmatic master prints of 1513-1514, Knight, Death and the Devil, Melancholia and St Jerome in his Study.
The following sections show the impact of Dürer's work on other artists, including Germany, Holland and Italy (Rembrandt among them), and his long-standing influence on ceramic designs from 16th century maiolica to 18th century Meissen. A focus on the late 16th and early 17th century phenomenon known as the Dürer Renaissance, largely created by the scarcity of the master's work, shows how glossy pastiches and elegant copies of his work became so highly sought after that artists such as Hans Hoffmann became well-known primarily for their skill at producing them.

The exhibition concludes with Dürer's legacy in the 19th century, particularly the way in which his work was interpreted by Romantic artists such as Caspar David Friedrich. Amid the rise of German nationalism, Dürer's name and art began to achieve a virtually iconic status and a final section looks at how the artist became an object of almost religious veneration in the elaborate festivals celebrating the anniversaries of his birth and death dates of 1828 and 1871.

Admission £6 (£3 concessions),



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