From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Albrecht Dürer (21 May 1471 – 6 April 1528) was a German painter, printmaker, engraver, mathematician, and theorist from Nuremberg. His prints established his reputation across Europe when he was still in his twenties, and he has been conventionally regarded as the greatest artist of the Northern Renaissance ever since. His vast body of work includes altarpieces and religious works, numerous portraits and self-portraits, and copper engravings. His woodcuts, such as the Apocalypse series (1498), retain a more Gothic flavour than the rest of his work. His well-known works include the Knight, Death, and the Devil (1513), Saint Jerome in his Study (1514) and Melencolia I (1514), which has been the subject of extensive analysis and interpretation. His watercolours mark him as one of the first European landscape artists, while his ambitious woodcuts revolutionized the potential of that medium.
Dürer's introduction of classical motifs into Northern art, through his knowledge of Italian artists and German humanists, has secured his reputation as one of the most important figures of the Northern Renaissance. This is reinforced by his theoretical treatises, which involve principles of mathematics, perspective and ideal proportions, best illustrated by Artist and Model in the Studio (1525).
Dürer exerted a huge influence on the artists of succeeding generations; especially on printmaking, the medium through which his contemporaries mostly experienced his art, as his paintings were mostly in private collections located in only a few cities. His success in spreading his reputation across Europe through prints was undoubtedly an inspiration for major artists such as Raphael, Titian, and Parmigianino, who entered into collaborations with printmakers to distribute their work beyond their local region.
His work in engraving seems to have had an intimidating effect upon his German successors, the Little Masters, who attempted a few large engravings, but continued Dürer's themes in tiny, rather cramped, compositions. The early Lucas van Leiden was the only Northern European engraver to successfully continue to produce large engravings in the first third of the century. The generation of Italian engravers who trained in the shadow of Dürer all either directly copied parts of his landscape backgrounds (Giulio Campagnola and Christofano Robetta), or whole prints (Marcantonio Raimondi and Agostino Veneziano). However, Dürer's influence became less dominant after 1515, when Marcantonio perfected his new engraving style, which in turn, traveled over the Alps to dominate Northern engraving also.
In painting, Dürer had relatively little influence in Italy, where probably, only his altarpiece in Venice was to be seen, and his German successors were less effective in blending German and Italian styles.
His intense and self-dramatising self-portraits have continued to have a strong influence up to the present, and may be blamed for some of the wilder excesses of artist's self-portraiture, especially in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
He has never fallen from critical favour, and there have been revivals of interest in his works Germany in the Dürer Renaissance of c.1570–1630, in the early nineteenth century, and in German Nationalism from 1870–1945.