The inaugural exhibition in the European works on paper rotation space (on view until March 20) explores the Renaissance in Germany. Comprised completely of prints from the collection of the Milwaukee Art Museum, you can find engravings by Heinrich Aldegrever (1502–ca. 1561) and stipple engravings by Hans Sebald Beham (1500–1550). But you can’t study printmaking in the German Renaissance without a serious consideration of Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528). And we’re lucky enough to have 14 prints by the master! This is the first of a series of posts related to Dürer’s prints.
Albrecht Dürer is often considered the father of the northern Renaissance. He traveled to Italy twice, bringing the Italian Renaissance’s interests in art and culture back to Germany. Not only was he a well-respected visual artist, but he was also a widely published author on humanistic thought and scientific topics. Also, he was engaged in debate on religious issues. Serving as the first court artist to Holy Roman Emperors Maximilian I and his successor Charles V, Dürer had access to some of the highest social circles of Europe. Accordingly, he embraced the Renaissance idea of the artist as a creative genius whose gifts were bestowed by God rather than as a hard-working craftsman.
One way that Dürer influenced the artistic trajectory of the northern Renaissance is through his masterful approach to printmaking. His exploration of the unique way that prints can show light and dark, as well as how they can tell a powerful story, made printmaking an artwork in its own right rather than just a way to illustrate printed books. Today we begin a series that explores Dürer’s role in the history of printmaking by looking closely at some of his prints on view at the Milwaukee Art Museum.