Albrecht Dürer is widely considered to be one of the greatest artists of the Northern Renaissance. In his engraving Melencolia I (1514), an enigmatic scene unfolds, in which a brooding angel sits near geometrically hewn stones, a demon flies overheard, and a sleeping hound wedges itself between tools and scientific instruments. “Nature holds the beautiful, for the artist who has the insight to extract it,” he once mused. “Thus, beauty lies even in humble, perhaps ugly things, and the ideal, which bypasses or improves on nature, may not be truly beautiful in the end.” Born on May 21, 1471 in Nuremberg, Germany, Dürer was trained as an engraver from an early age and began receiving regular commissions by his early 20s. He went on to create several important altarpieces and portraits of his patrons, including the Holy Roman Emperors Maximilian I and Charles V. Over the course of his career, Dürer revolutionized woodcut, drawing, and painting techniques, with works that include Adam and Eve (1507) and Praying Hands (1508). He died in Nuremberg, Germany on April 6, 1528 at the age of 56. Today, Dürer’s works are held in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Alte Pinakothek in Munich, the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, the Louvre Museum in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Albrecht Dürer House in Nuremberg, among others.
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