In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Albrecht Dürer

  • Introduction
  • Bibliographies
  • Essay Collections
  • Primary Sources and Translations

Renaissance and Reformation Albrecht Dürer
Jeffrey Chipps Smith
  • LAST REVIEWED: 19 April 2024
  • LAST MODIFIED: 19 April 2024
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0159


Albrecht Dürer (b. 1471–d. 1528), of Nuremberg, enjoyed great fame in his lifetime and, occasionally, a cultlike status in later centuries. He remains the most renowned German artist. Because of his prodigious production, especially of prints, Dürer was the first Renaissance artist whose works were known firsthand throughout Europe. It has been estimated that approximately 100,000 impressions of his prints circulated during his lifetime. His practice of monogramming most of his paintings, prints, and even drawings created a recognizable brand, or identity. Trained first as a goldsmith by his father, Albrecht the Elder, and then as a painter, draftsman, and woodcut designer by Michael Wolgemut, Dürer completed his early education by working as a journeyman along the Rhine in 1490–1493 and then traveling to Venice in 1494–1495. He first achieved international recognition with The Apocalypse, which he created and published as a book in 1498. The size of his oeuvre is immense. Although an exact count is impossible, owing to scholarly differences of opinion concerning attributions, he produced approximately 949 surviving drawings, 189 paintings, and 277 prints, excluding separate book illustrations. He authored three published treatises. Dürer’s technical experimentations, his compositional and narrative innovations, his often-novel iconographies, his fascination with the human body, his internalized grasp of contemporary Italian art, and his theoretical explorations permanently transformed and modernized German art. Dürer’s unprecedented corpus of self-portraits, including his prominent inclusion in four altarpieces, coupled with surviving letters and other texts, demonstrates his conscious efforts at self-fashioning. He actively cultivated what he hoped would be a lasting reputation as an artist and author. Dürer’s art, avidly collected in his lifetime, has been much sought after ever since. It inspired the so-called Dürer-Renaissance in Nuremberg and at the courts in Prague and Munich c. 1600. The cult of Dürer, including elaborate jubilee celebrations in 1828, peaked but did not end in the nineteenth century, as he is still touted as the quintessential German artist. As a national standard-bearer, Dürer—his person, and his art—have been creatively appropriated but also less benignly politicized over the centuries. Most of the literature on Dürer is written in German; however, many excellent surveys and specialized studies are available in English. This summary bibliography stresses books and catalogues but includes some important articles as well.

General Overviews

Efforts to write about Dürer’s life and art began long before 1728, the 200th anniversary of the artist’s death and the date of his first published monograph, and they have continued into the present. The sheer scale of Dürer’s production precludes truly inclusive studies, except separately, by media. The works cited under Comprehensive Monographs, Specialized Monographs, and Exhibition Catalogues provide excellent broad surveys of the artist, his oeuvre, and methodological or interpretive issues.

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