From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The German Renaissance, which originated with the Italian Renaissance in Italy, started spreading among German thinkers in the 15th and 16th centuries. This was a result of German artists who had traveled to Italy to learn more and become inspired by the Renaissance movement.
Many areas of the arts and sciences were influenced, notably by the spread of humanism to the various German states and principalities. There were many advances made in the development of new techniques in the fields of architecture, the arts, and the sciences.
By far the most famous German Renaissance-era artist is Albrecht Dürer who is well-known for his religious woodcuts and engravings, drawings, and painted portraits.
"Renaissance" is defined as the period of "rebirth" throughout Europe in the 15th century. Starting in Italy, the ideals of this period spread through the rest of Europe, including to Germany, where many artists, scientists, and thinkers were influenced by Italian Renaissance men. These regions, once defined by two dominant points of feudalism and of the Church, was becoming more defined by the more broad spectrum of people living within the countries. Germany was inevitably affected by this mass spread of renaissance thinking from Italy.
The biggest idea that spread was humanism. This consisted of the belief that individual human beings are the fundamental source of all value, and have the ability to understand and greatly effect the natural world. It was due to this thinking that pushed classical thinking, arts, and the natural sciences to the forefront during this period of thinking with Germany. This also made scientists focus more energy on the world around them and focus less on the heavens. This was a major turning point in history. If it had not been for this,we may live in a world much like the Greeks and Romans.
Mythology and ideology
The greatest mark of the Renaissance was the renewed interest in classical learning. Documents, papal or not, were being brought to the surface for examination and study. Classical learning and study was a must for any person living in the renaissance and was considered a great part of one's education. The basis of literature and art in this time were references back to times with Ancient Greek and Roman societies and mythology. The basis of natural science developed from that same look back into Greek and Roman philosophies and teaching, however they were more further developed.
One thing to remember is this transition back to classical learning did not happen in a few years, the transition itself took over a century to occur within Germany. During this period many artists, scientists, and men of the church traveled to Italy. It is then they brought back these ideals,and help thrust Germany into renaissance. The greatest influences of the German renaissance are marked for having brought the basis of Italian renaissance thinking, but still retaining to their German culture.
Martin Luther initiated the Protestant Reformation through the criticisms of church practices such as selling indulgences, which he published in his Ninety-Five Theses of 1517. Luther also translated the Bible into German, making the Christian scriptures more accessible to the general population and inspiring the standardization of the German language.
Konrad Celtis, also known as Konradus Celtis (most commonly Conrad Celtis) in America, was a German humanist during the German renaissance. Born in 1459, Celtis fully lived the renaissance life. He was both living and influencing the renaissance, and was one of the greatest impacts upon it. One of the most important aspects of his teachings, was that he focused on the history of the world, not just Germany or sections of Europe. Being a great free thinker, he was regarded less as a Christian leader or educator. Konrad Celtis was more involved in the ancient pagan aspects, than of the popular religions and ideals of the time, and this added to his "free thinking" humanist title.
Johann Reuchlin was the most important aspect of world culture teaching within Germany at this time. He was a scholar of both Greek and Hebrew. Graduating, then going on to teach at Basel, he was considered extremely intelligent. Yet after leaving Basel, he had to start copying manuscripts and apprenticing within areas of law. However, he is most known for his work within Hebrew studies. Unlike some other "thinkers" of this time, Reuchlin submerged himself into this, even creating a guide to preaching within the Hebrew faith. The book, titled De Arte Predicandi (1503), is possibly one of his best-known works from this period.
Born Henne Gänsfleisch zur Laden, Johannes Gutenberg is the most influential person within the German Renaissance. Another free thinker, humanist, and inventor, Gutenberg also grew up within the Renaissance, but influenced it greatly as well. His most well-known invention is the printing press. Johannes Gutenberg's press allowed the ideas of humanists, reformists, and others circulate their ideas. Essentially this is the basis of the Renaissance, the change and exchange of ideas.
Albrecht Dürer was at the time, and remains, the most famous artist of the German Renaissance. He was famous across Europe, and greatly admired in Italy, where his work was mainly known through his prints. He successfully integrated an elaborate Northern style with Renaissance harmony and monumentality. Among his best known works are Melencolia I, the Four Horsemen from his woodcut Apocalypse series, and Death, the Knight, and the Devil. Other significant artists were Lucas Cranach, the Danube School and the Little Masters.