Journeys of ideas

John Evans looks forward to a first major Dürer exhibition in 20 years

Thursday, 26th August

Dürer Saint Jerome 1521 oil on oak 60 x 48cm Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga Lisbon © Instituto Portugues de Museus Lisbon

Dürer, Saint Jerome, 1521, oil on oak, 60 x 48cm, Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon, © Instituto Portugues de Museus, Lisbon

MEMBERS’ booking for the National Gallery’s Albrecht Dürer blockbuster is now open with tickets due to go on general sale from September 8.

Dürer’s Journeys: Travels of a Renaissance Artist is to open on November 20, the first major exhibition of his work in the United Kingdom in 20 years.

It will follow his travels, to the Alps and Italy in the mid-1490s, Venice in 1505-1507, and the Low Countries 1520-1521; and back home to Nuremberg where Dürer (1471-1528) worked for most of his life.

Featuring more than 100 paintings, drawings, prints, and letters, it will examine the burgeoning of ideas across Europe at a particularly tumultuous time.

Dürer’s Journeys will include many loans from museums and private collections from across the world, among them his double-sided Madonna and Child (c 1496-1499) from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, which has not been seen in the UK before.

Other highlights will include his Saint Jerome, 1521, from the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, in Lisbon and his Adam and Eve, 1504, from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam; as well as his early studies of human proportion and, after he was back in Nuremberg, his celebrated engravings.

Dürer, Kneeling Donor, 1506, brush and black ink and wash, with white opaque watercolour, with pen and dark ink, on blue paper, 32.4 x 19.8cm, The Morgan Library & Museum, New York, © The Morgan Library & Museum, New York

The show is organised in partnership with the Suermondt-Ludwig Museum in Aachen.

The National say this show: “will explore how Dürer’s travels sparked an exchange of ideas with Netherlandish and Italian Renaissance artists, fuelled his curiosity and creativity, and increased his fame and influence across Europe”.

In Italy Dürer would win the admiration of Raphael and, later, Vasari. He himself would study the works of Andrea Mantega closely and would “take him north” as well as the Bellinis, Leonardo, and more.

Towards the end of his life, in his treatises on proportions, Dürer wrote: “Occasionally God gives an artist the ability to learn and to create something good; and no one like him can be found in his own time, or perhaps ever existed before him, or will soon come after him.”

But what a time! One of real religious and social upheaval.

How Dürer’s changes of artistic styles and media developed is fascinating but so, too, is his spiritual and philosophical journey.

At the artist’s death both Martin Luther and Erasmus paid their tributes, the former referring to him as “that best of men…”, and the latter saying: “…he even depicts things which cannot be depicted”.

The Credit Suisse Exhibition, Dürer’s Journeys: Travels of a Renaissance Artist will run at the National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, WC2N 5DN from November 20 to February 27 2022. www.nationalgallery.org.uk

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