Teachers Lesson Plans

An introduction to the prints of Albrecht Dürer

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Intrigued by artistic developments in Italy, Dürer made two trips to Venice in 1494-1495 and 1505-1507, which had a profound impact on his art. He began to explore the secrets of perspective and to wed ideals of beauty, proportion and harmony to a northern European taste for realism and detail.

In comparing Adam and Eve, and The Large Horse what is most apparent at first are their dissimilarities; one illustrates a biblical narrative, the other a military scene. Their similarities lie in the artist approach to his subject matter. Though one scene is the depiction of a biblical narrative and would have been seen as more important than the military scene, we see that the artist has rendered both with the utmost attention to detail, and emphasis on depicting proper proportions in both.

Later he would turn to publishing as a means to promote measurement as an artistic tool. In 1525 Dürer published Painter's Manual, intended to teach proper use of measurement to artists, this would be followed by a treatise on the Fortification of Towns, Castles and Places (1527) and The Four Books on Human Proportion, published posthumously in 1528.

Interestingly after years of study Dürer ultimately decided that there was no absolute ideal human proportion, a notion that is echoed in one of his most famous quotes. "What beauty is I do not know. Nobody knows it but God."