Monday, December 21, 2009

Picture of the Week No.3 - Albrecht Dürer

The lawn outside the gallery is still dusted with snow and the tea room full of mince pies, so I couldn't possibly do this weeks Picture of the Week without an appropriately Christmas themed image. And as we've also been thinking about masters of printmaking, an example of Albrecht Dürer's exsquisite wood engraving is most appropriate. KP

Albrecht DÜRER (1471 - 1528)
Adoration of the Kings, 1511

woodcut, 29.3 x 22cm (image)
29.6 x 22.3cm (sheet)
inscribed: monogram
Accession No.P.456
PROVENANCE: P&D Colnaghi & Co. Ltd, from whom purchased by Gallery, January 1964
REFERENCES: ed. Dr W. Kurth, The Complete Woodcuts of Albrecht Dürer, 1963, no.262, as The Adoration of the Magi, illus.
NOTES: Paper has the water mark Bull's Head with J.Z.

A prolific printmaker, Dürer made some two hundred and fifty woodcuts in the course of his career. His initial fame as a printmaker was established through the publication of a series of large woodcuts and text for The Revelation of St John (The Apocalypse), 1498, notable for being the first book to be both illustrated and published by an artist.

It has been suggested that due to the high quality of line and detail, Dürer would have cut his own woodblocks. However, it is more likely that he employed professional block-cutters (Formschneider) to undertake this work, as there would have been a large pool of available craftsmen available for this purpose. Dürer would have closely supervised both the careful selection of the blocks and the actual cutting, to ensure that the quality of the design (which he would have drawn directly onto the block himself) was not lost. The earliest surviving example of a woodblock by Dürer is St Jerome in his Study, 1492, the block being signed on the reverse Albrecht Dürer von Nömergk (Basel, Universitätsbibliothek). In this early example the block is far more crudely cut than the work undertaken at Nuremberg, where a tradition of skilled craftsmanship had been encouraged in the print workshops of artists such as Michael Wolgemut (1434-1519) and Anton Koberger (c.1440-1513) who ran one of the largest in Europe at this time.

This text originally appeared in Prints, by the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery, 2004.

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