It’s not every day that European Renaissance artwork arrives at State College.
Until May 8, the Palmer Museum of Art will display a collection of works by German printmaker Albrecht Dürer in its second-floor special exhibitions gallery.
“Engraving in the Age of Dürer” features some of the artist’s most influential pieces for the public to view as part of the museum’s 50th anniversary celebration.
Born in Nuremberg, Germany, in 1471, Dürer quickly became famous in his twenties for his mastery of printmaking and woodcut, mediums he helped popularize at the time.
Unlike other famous Renaissance artists, such as Leonardo da Vinci or Michelangelo, Dürer’s work was often easily disseminated to a wide range of audiences through the use of printing presses which allowed him to create multiples of his work, according to Heather McCune Bruhn.
Assistant professor of art history McCune Bruhn said via email that Dürer was able to produce his work in a way that made it more accessible to people of all skill levels, ultimately helping to spread his influence and popularity. at the time.
“Unlike Michelangelo and Leonardo, for example, who produced singular masterpieces, Dürer produced multiples of his woodcuts and etchings,” said McCune Bruhn. “Prints made art accessible to people of all skill levels, and they were also a means by which ideas and images could spread from place to place.”
Starting out as a goldsmith’s apprentice for his father, Dürer was trained early on to handle his work with great care, McCune Bruhn said. Using this training, along with his innate attention to detail, McCune Bruhn said Dürer created works of art that have kept him relevant to this day.
McCune Bruhn said that while Dürer’s prints and woodcuts are among his most famous works, he is also widely known for his paintings, sketches, and autobiographical accounts of his travels through Europe.
The centerpiece of the exhibition, called “Melencolia I”, is part of a collection of engravings created by Dürer between 1513 and 1514, called the “Master Engravings”. Known for their detailed depictions of medieval themes, the Master Engravings are often referred to as some of Dürer’s greatest works.
The print is currently on long-term loan to the museum from a private collection, according to the Palmer.
Depicting a winged figure surrounded by a frenetic scene of geometric tools, strange creatures and symbols, “Melencolia I” serves as inspiration for the exhibit, said Patrick McGrady, the exhibit’s curator.
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Although there have been many interpretations of the print, McGrady said no one but Dürer would be able to say what the print really depicted. He said “Melencolia I” is one of the most theorized surviving works of art, and there are entire books devoted to its complex and elusive imagery.
Although Dürer had no formal academic training, McGrady said he was well acquainted with the “great thinkers” of the time as well as other Renaissance artists.
“[Dürer] was well aware of contemporary thinking,” McGrady said. “That’s one of the reasons he was able to create the imagery that he created… He understood what not only artists were thinking but also philosophers, writers, theologians at the time – he was at the top of the intelligentsia at the time.”
Other works in the collection include other examples by Dürer and works by other artists including Israhel van Meckenem, Michael Wolgemut, Sebald Beham, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Marcantonio Raimondi, Georg Pencz and Hans Schäufelein.
“The Lamentation”, another important work by Dürer in the exhibition which depicts a selection of biblical tales surrounding the life of Jesus, is from a larger series called “Large Passion”.
Palmer Museum director Erin Coe said via email that “The Lamentation” remains a special part of the museum’s permanent collection and history, as it was the first piece acquired with funds provided by the “group of museum members, known as ‘The Friends'”. “, in 1975.”
Coe said the exhibit “demonstrates Dürer’s connection to the history of the museum and the formation of the collection, as well as to the community we serve.”
Observing the lasting impacts of his works, McCune Bruhn said Dürer’s “exquisite” mastery of printmaking created a legacy of work that continues to captivate audiences.
“Albrecht Dürer certainly qualifies as a multi-talented and highly accomplished Renaissance man, in the same way that we celebrate Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci,” McCune Bruhn said. “I consider Dürer both a talented artist and a competent businessman who understood the art market.
“His choice of universal themes means we still find something relatable and compelling in his work today.”
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