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Albrecht Dürer, Realism, Humanism, and the Master Engraver


This German Renaissance master brought home Italy’s embrace of realism, humanism, and respect for artists. His self-portraits celebrated his genius and his meticulous attention to detail was ideal for his work as an engraver — which made Albrecht Dürer the first best-selling artist ever

Complete Video Script

[99, Albrecht Dürer, 1471–1528; The Four Apostles, 1526, Alte Pinakothek, Munich] In painting, Germany's Renaissance master was Albrecht Dürer. He traveled to Italy and brought home Italy's embrace of realism, humanism, and respect for artists as cultural leaders of the day.

[100, self-portrait at age of 28, 1500, Albrecht Dürer, Alte Pinakothek, Munich] Bold and dynamic, and quirky, Dürer had no problem with his ego. He painted himself almost as the Christ of his day…celebrating his genius…and his great head of hair. His proud monogram marks nearly all his art.

[101] Dürer was more than a painter. As a master engraver he created prints made from finely crafted metal plates. His trademark detail and realism is extraordinary.

[102, Albrecht Dürer's house and workshop, Nürnberg, Germany] At his workshop you can see how it's with these tools that the artist cuts an image into the copper plate. After rubbing it with ink, a print is made from the plate. Dürer was famous for his vivid portrayals of the natural world. To be able to enjoy such beautiful, yet mass-produced art, must have been a marvel 500 years ago.

[103] Dürer was the first best-selling artist in history. Thanks to this impressive new technology, many prints could be made from a single master plate. Dürer's engravings were affordable and spread across Europe, further accelerating the rapid spread of new art and new ideas.