Originally published in Munich in 1914, this selection of Albrecht Dürer's finest drawings by the great art historian Heinrich Wöfflin has long been regarded as a basic book in the arts. It has gone through many editions in Europe, even though this is its first appearance in English.
Professor Wöfflin selected 81 drawings by the master both for their individual interest and for the light they cast on Dürer's artistic growth and evolution. They begin with the self-portrait Dürer drew at the age of 13 in 1484 and end with his Head of Saint Mark, done in 1526, approximately two years before his death. Included are many favorites as well as many works that are little known. Of special interest are sketches that Dürer prepared for famous works in other media, such as drawings for the famous woodcut series The Life of the Virgin.
Professor Wöfflin's penetrating essay, which is considered one of the foundations of modern art criticism, has been translated by Stanley Appelbaum.
Several features have been added to this Dover edition of Dürer's drawings: a revised statement on ownership of originals; bibliographical note; Winkler numbers; and a new Foreword by Alfred Werner, art critic and lecturer.
About the Author
Regarded as the greatest of the German Renaissance artists, Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528) created a vast body of work that ranges from altarpieces to copper engravings and portraits. Painter, printer, draughtsman, and art theorist, he remains best known for his woodcuts.
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DRAWINGS OF Albrecht Dürer
By Heirich Wölfflin, STANLEY APPELBAUM
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 1970 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
Over the main entrance to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art are portrait medallions commemorating six supreme geniuses in the field of fine art. These great men—Bramante, Dürer, Michelangelo, Raphael, Rembrandt, and Velázquez—were honored in the last years of the nineteenth century, but if a committee of art scholars reviewed the selection today, it is likely that they would concur in the choice of Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528) as one of the world's half-dozen greatest artists. Because of his individualism (he would qualify as a great man by Emerson's definition of one "who is what he is from nature, and who never reminds us of others"), subjectivism and insatiable thirst for knowledge, he appeals to our own age of creative turmoil more strongly than does any other artist who had reached manhood by the end of the fifteenth century.
Dürer, unquestionably the major figure of the Northern Renaissance, is unique among his contemporary compatriots because he alone had nothing retrogressive and provincial about him; he alone came close to the ideal of a European artist and found admirers far beyond the German lands. This is how Erasmus of Rotterdam eulogized him:
What does he not express in monochromes, that is, in black lines? Light, shade, splendor, eminences, depressions; and, though derived from the position of one single thing, more than one aspect offers itself to the eye of the beholder. He observes accurately proportions and harmonies. Nay, he even depicts that which cannot be depicted ... the whole mind of man as it reflects itself in the behavior of the body, and almost the voice itself. These things he places before the eye in the most pertinent lines—black lines, yet so that if you should spread on pigments you would injure the work....
While one may hesitate to call Dürer a "modern" man, one can readily agree with Erwin Panofsky that he was the first German to be self-consciously an artist. Unwilling to content himself with the traditional role of "an honest craftsman who produces pictures as a tailor makes coats and suits," he raised himself from the status of a humble medieval artisan to that of a patrician, on an equal footing with persons of erudition, wealth and power. Held in high esteem not only by Erasmus, but also by other influential men, including some exacting Italian masters, Dürer accepted all admiration with gracious poise. Alone among the Northern artists of his time, he drew and painted his own features repeatedly, and he did so without a trace of humility. In fact, his self-portrait of 1500 (now in the Alte Pinakothek in Munich) led one biographer (Michael Levey) to say: "Dürer is here the Redeemer, and he has modified his own sharp-featured reality to conform to the traditional type of Christ."
Dürer is also unique in that he treasured his own sketches, and cared to sign many of them with his famous monogram and date even though they were not intended for sale, but generally as gifts for close friends. Approximately one thousand of his sketches have survived, whereas only thirty-odd drawings by Matthias Grünewald have come down to us. Of course Grünewald, as Mathis Gothart Neithardt is still being called although his proper name was long ago rediscovered, was essentially a painter, whereas his coeval Dürer was primarily a graphic artist—indubitably the greatest draftsman of his time, and among the most accomplished draftsmen that ever lived.
The Swiss-born art historian Heinrich Wölfflin (1864–1945) was, of course, aware of all Dürer's great talents and unique characteristics; perhaps all too aware of the fact that among German-speaking people there had developed an idolatry of the master from Franconia that resisted critical analysis. In his first book-length study, Die Kunst Albrecht Dürers (1905), Wölfflin limited the purely biographical information to a few lines, and concentrated instead on an exposition of the "how" and "why" of the master's art. The exciting story of the goldsmith's son who became a protégé of Emperor Maximilian I and the pride of the Free Imperial City of Nuremberg had long become part of Allgemeinbildung (general education) in Central Europe; there was a plethora of literature about him, ranging from the serious pioneer work by Moritz Thausing down to popular, partly fictionalized, biographies that were exaggerated in their adulation and that verged on the ridiculous.
As if to counteract the bad effects of such sentimental and often flowery prose, Wölfflin rigidly avoided superlatives and employed an austere style bordering on a mathematician's coolness whenever he wrote on the master—in the aforementioned book of 1905; in his foreword to an edition of Dürer's literary remains (1908); in the introduction and explanatory notes to Albrecht Dürer, Handzeichnungen (first issued in 1914); in his two public lectures on Dürer (the first delivered in 1921 to a national convocation of students at the University of Erlangen, the second in 1928, in Nuremberg, at the quadricentennial commemoration of the artist's death); and in sundry brief treatises in scholarly yearbooks and learned journals. In the same dry "cool" manner are his numerous references to Dürer in his pivotal work, Kunstgeschichtliche Grundbegriffe (1915; translated into English as Principles of Art History), and especially in Italien und das deutsche Formgefühl (1931; translated into English as The Sense of Form).
But it would be wrong to assume that Wölfflin's severe style—the very opposite, say, of Walter Pater's—is due to a lack of enthusiasm for his subject. On the contrary, it was only through direct contact with works of art (at least with those with which he could empathize, since he had many blind spots) that he, the reticent bachelor, the shy recluse, came to life. Some who were privileged to sit at his feet at the universities of Basel, Berlin, Munich, or, finally, Zurich have recorded the deep impression he left upon them. E. H. Gombrich, director of the Warburg Institute in the University of London, recalled that Wölfflin held the audience in the largest lecture hall of Berlin spellbound. Another scholar, the late Wolfgang Born, has written about this inspiring pedagogue:
The task of interpreting art to his students was a challenge to ever more concise formulations. It was the most exciting intellectual spectacle I have ever experienced. In the darkened room, the tall figure of the professor appeared as a black silhouette. He stood next to the slide machine in the back of his auditorium, very calm, his unforgettable head—the child of one of his friends called it a lion's head—slightly raised. Haltingly and tersely the words came from his mouth, stimulated by the picture which appeared on the screen and elucidating its significance with uncanny accuracy. How splendidly selected were his examples! Most of them contrasting types. The way in which he compared them was a revelation to all of us. Each lecture was a new adventure in "seeing."
This is exactly what Wölfflin wanted to teach: how to look at a work of art. Unlike Pater, he had no facility with words, and he did not really consider himself a writer. And unlike Panofsky, whose Albrecht Dürer (first published in 1943, revised in 1945) is the work to be most heartily recommended to the American reader for further study, he had little interest in the intellectual, philosophical, and religious currents of Dürer's age. What interested him was exclusively this: why Dürer preferred certain solutions to formal problems, and how he achieved his desired aesthetic goals.
Frustrated in expressing his own artistic inclinations as he is known to have been, Wölfflin sought to put himself in the artist's place in order to reconstruct the creative act. From works completed centuries before his own time he had divined Dürer's method of seeing and of translating his inner vision into lines and colors. He tried to establish the probable reasons for Dürer's choice of one medium instead of another, or of one structural solution in preference to other possibilities. He went still further and treated Dürer not as an unassailable "Old Master" but as an unproven artist whose work should be judged by critical standards and compared to determine why certain items were more or less successful than others. As he explained in an early work, Klassische Kunst (1899; translated into English as Classic Art), he aimed to teach art lovers about "those things which constitute the value and the essence of a work of art," rather than to give them "mere biographical anecdotes or a description of the circumstances of the time."
All of this may appear self-evident today, but in 1888, when Wölfflin embarked upon his teaching career, art history was still a branch of Kulturgeschichte, not an independent Fach. He wanted to lay the foundations for a discipline that would serve art the way philology serves literature. By more or less disengaging the study of drawings, prints, paintings, sculptures, and buildings from non-artistic details, by focussing on form and style as the crux of artistic meaning, Wölfllin ushered in the concept of art history as a "history of artistic vision."
He did have a few predecessors. Long before him, Winckelmann had warned, "It is not enough to say that something is beautiful—one ought to know also to what degree and why it is beautiful." Goethe, in his old age, observed that while everyone could see the subject, form was invisible to most people. Wölfflin's immediate precursor, however, was Konrad Fiedler, who, in a slim but important volume, Über die Beurteilung von Werken der bildenden Kunst (1876; now accessible in English under the title On Judging Works of Visual Art), summed up in one sentence the feeling of these two predecessors, and also forecast Wölfflin's Grundbegriffe: "The understanding of art can be grasped in no other way than in terms of art."
Wölfflin's edifice of thought is not easy to characterize in a sentence or two. But if a summation must be attempted, one might perhaps say that one basic idea runs like a red thread through his writings: that there is an evolution of artistic forms with its own laws and dialects, and that these inflexible laws are independent of social conditions and individual taste.
To be sure, Wölfflin formed his philosophy after having looked earnestly at thousands of works of art and architecture. Indeed, art scholars are grateful for his endeavors to give structure to what hitherto had been vague and unformulated, specifically for his concept of Grundbegriffe, that is, five pairs of concepts fundamental to the analysis of stylistic entities. Wölfflin hoped that these paired concepts would be of major importance as formal patterns of universal applicability, but he was finally compelled to admit the contradictions in, and the limitations of, his own method, which, to today's scholars, appears as something like a bed of Procrustes. Into this rigid frame he tried to fit Dürer by insisting that Dürer had developed a "pure linear style"— after all, the contrast between "linearism" (as characteristic of Italian art) and the "painterly" approach (as a rather Northern feature) plays a great role in his theory.
Critics can claim and have claimed that Wölfflin carefully selected for this book only the Dürer drawings that would prove his thesis: that Dürer and Raphael represented similar formal aims, and that Dürer, after so much exposure to Italian art, to his end remained enslaved by the High Renaissance. Indeed, it would be quite possible to make an entirely different selection from the large number of individual drawings by Dürer that have survived, and many an exception would challenge the professor's doctrinaire approach. There are, in fact, "painterly" modulations of tone in some of the pictures included in this anthology, which duplicates Wölfflin's selection.
However, it is only fair to state that a decade and a half after the initial publication of this work, in the last of his major books, Italien und das deutsche Formgefühl, Wölfflin modified the dichotomy he had created between the young German and Gothic Dürer, and the mature "Italian" and "Renaissance" Dürer. A few quotations from the 1931 work will demonstrate this more seasoned approach:
Dürer had never intended to sacrifice German art to Italian art; he took whatever he needed, without letting himself be driven from the native soil in which his imagination was rooted.
Dürer is properly considered a central figure in German art rather than a peripheral one, since many anti-Italianate tendencies coexisted in him with those sympathetic to Italian aims.
Wölfflin reached the conclusion that, all his "Italian" traits notwithstanding, Dürer was distinguished from the Southern artists by the strong internal movement of elements within a composition. With "The Great Piece of Turf," Plate 16A, obviously in mind, he writes:
Despite all his clarity in the representation of a leafy plant, a German artist can always be recognized by his perception of a secret life that goes from leaf to leaf and entwines one leaf with the next.
At the same time, the scholar clings—quite legitimately—to his contention that Dürer, inspired by his intimate contacts with the art produced south of the Alps, introduced a fresh note into Central European art. "A new world was opened up to the North by these self-contained figures who, as independent and complete beings, are regulated by their own inner laws," he writes with reference to "Adam and Eve" (Plate 20). Instead of the interlocked forms found in Gothic church decorations, here are "free, self-reliant figures" that have their value in themselves and reveal themselves through their own form."
In other words, in the last analysis, Dürer, Germanic though he was and remained to the end, broadened his compatriots' outlook by introducing Southern clarity:
For Italy, art is a science.... Dürer accepted this concept of art. To him, to represent meant to know. He fought against a lax practice that, without theoretical basis and without real knowledge of the subject, was guided only by an obscure pictorial impulse. He calls this mere "Brauch" and opposes it to true art.
In a way, with slight changes, the sentence beginning "He fought against a lax practice ..." can apply to the art historian Wölfflin, whose concentration on the strictly visible had an enormous influence on his pupils, many of whom were to occupy important positions as educators or directors of museums. He set a model for the future by his language, which is sparing and precise, in contrast to so much writing on art characterized by poetic vagueness that opens the door to error and confusion. English readers will welcome the addition of another Wölfflin book to the four works already available to them. This convenient edition of Dürer's drawings will be of great interest on the eve of the five-hundreth anniversary of Dürer's birth, which will be celebrated, not only in Nuremberg, but wherever the impact of the German master's genius has been felt.
New York September, 1969 ]FOR
Excerpted from DRAWINGS OF Albrecht Dürer by Heirich Wölfflin, STANLEY APPELBAUM. Copyright © 1970 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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Table of ContentsLIST OF PLATES
"Frontispiece: THE "WEIHERHÄUSCHEN"
1 "SELF-PORTRAIT AT THE AGE OF THIRTEEN, 1484"
2 "SLEF-PORTRAIT, ca. 1491"
3 "FEMALE NUDE [WITH HEADCLOTH AND SLIPPERS], 1493"
4 "ORPHEUS SLAIN BY BACCHANTES, WITH A BOY RUNNING AWAY, 1494"
5 "ABDUCTION OF A WOMAN [RAPE OF THE SABINE WOMEN], 1495"
6 "THE WOMEN'S BATH, 1496"
7 "WINGED MAN, IN IDEALISTIC CLOTHING, PLAYING A LUTE, 1497"
8 THE PRODIGAL SON AMONG THE SWINE 1497/98?
9 YOUNG MAN LEANING FORWARD AND WORKING WITH A LARGE DRILL
10 DÜRER'S WIFE AGNES
11 "CHRIST CROWNED WITH THORNS, 1504"
12 LYING-IN ROOM
13 "FOREST GLADE WITH A WALLED FOUNTAIN BY WHICH TWO MEN ARE SITTING, c. 1505"
14 THE CATHEDRAL OF ARCO IN THE SOUTH TYROL
15 "MAN IN ARMOR ON HORSEBACK, 1498"
16 "A NUREMBERG COSTUME STUDY, 1500"
16A "THE SO-CALLED GREAT PIECE OF TURF, 1503"
17 "YOUNG HARE, 1502"
18 "SIDE, FRONT AND BACK VIEW OF A HELMET"
19 APOLLO WITH THE SOLAR DISC AND DIANA TRYING TO SHIELF HERSELF FROM THE RAYS WITH HER UPLIFTED HAND
20 "IDEALISTIC MALE AND FEMALE FIGURES [ADAM AND EVE], 1504"
21 Three studies from nature for ADAM'S ARMS in the 1504 copperplate engraving
22 "WILLIBALD PIRKHEIMER, 1503"
23 "LAUGHING PEASANT WOMAN, 1505"
24 "REAR VIEW OF A FEMALE NUDE HOLDING A CAP, 1506"
25 "SEATED NUDE CHILD, 1506"
26 "THE ARCHITECT HIERONYMUS OF AUGSBURG, 1506"
27 "BOY'S HANDS, 1506"
28 "STUDY OF DRAPERY, 1508"
29 "MALE NUDE, HALF LENGTH, 1508"
30 "STUDY OF DRAPERY, 1508"
31 "HEAD OF AN APOSTLE LOOKING DOWNWARD, 1508"
32 "HEAD OF AN APOSTLE LOOKING UPWARD, 1508"
33 "MAN'S HANDS JOINED IN PRAYER, 1508"
34 "FEET OF A KNEELING MAN, 1508"
35 "LUCRECE, 1508"
36 "HEAD OF A NEGRO, 1508"
37 "THE LAMENTATION, 1513?"
38 "THE VIRGIN NURSING THE CHILD, 1512"
39 "DÜRER'S MOTHER, 1514"
40 "PORTRAIT OF A GIRL, 1515"
41 "EMPEROR MAXIMILLIAN I, 1578"
42 "VIEW OF HEROLDSBERG, 1510"
43 THE HOLY FAMILY IN A ROOM
44 "THE MADONNA AND CHILD ON A GRASSY BANK, 1511"
45 "THE DEATH OF THE VIRGIN, 1508/1510"
46 "ST. JEROME IN HIS STUDY, 1511"
47 "THE NATIVITY: ADORATION OF THE CHRIST CHILD IN THE STABLES WITH THE VIRGIN AND ST. JOSEPH, 1514"
48 "SEATED WOMAN, 1514"
49 "PAGE OF MARGINAL DRAWINGS FOR EMPEROR MAXIMILIAN'S PRAYER BOOK, 1515"
50 "PAGE OF MARGINAL DRAWINGS FOR EMPEROR MAXIMILIAN'S PRAYER BOOK, 1515"
51 "DESIGN FOR A GOBLET, WITH A VARIANT OF THE BASE, MID 1510'S"
52 SIX GOBLETS
53 "MALE AND FEMALE NUDES, 1516"
54 "MALE AND FEMALE NUDES, 1515"
55 "SEATED PROPHET, 1517"
56 ST. JEROME IN HIS STUDY [WITHOUT CARDINAL'S ROBES] CONTEMPLATING A SKULL
57 "THE MADONNA AND CHILD WITH A MUSIC-MAKING ANGEL, 1519"
58 "A YOUNG GIRL OF COLOGNE AND DÜRER'S WIFE, 1520"
59 "CASPAR STURM, 1520"
60 "THE CATHEDRAL OF AIX-LA-CHAPELLE WITH ITS SURROUDINGS, SEEN FROM THE CORONATION HALL, October 1520"
61 "ANTWERP ["ANTORFF"], 1520"
62 "PORTRAIT OF AN UNKNOWN MAN, 1520"
63 "LUCAS VAN LEYDEN," 1521"
64 "PORTRAIT OF ULRICH VARNBÜHLER, 1522"
65 "HEAD OF AN OLD MAN, 1521"
66 "STUDY OF DRAPERY, 1521"
67 "WEEPING CHERUB, 1521"
68 "THE MAN OF SORROWS, 1522"
69 "ST. JOHN LAMENTING, 1523"
70 "THE LAMENTATION, 1522"
71 "THE VIRGIN WITH TWO ANGELS AND FOUR SAINTS [ST. CATHERINE, ST. JOHN THE EVANGELIST, ST. JAMES THE GREAT AND ST. JOSEPH], 1521"
72 "THE LAMENTATION, 1521"
73 "CHRIST ON THE MOUNT OF OLIVES, 1521"
74 "CHRIST ON THE MOUNT OF OLIVES, 1524"
75 "THE ADORATION OF THE WISE MEN, 1524"
76 "MASS, 1523"
77 "FIVE MALE NUDES, 1526"
78 THE PIECE OF TURF WITH THE COLUMBINE
79 "HEAD OF ST. MARK, 1526"