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26.1.11

Lions, Tigers, and Flying Women! Dürer @ the Clark

There's something about the seventy-five Dürer engravings on view at the Clark Art Institute (in Williamsburg, Mass.) that seem familiar and not out of place. Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528), the German master, lived in a time of terror, marauding mercenaries, and the unknown of a new century. He had dragons, demons, and knights of the Reformation to deal with; we have cruise missiles, Internet worms, and humans strapped with explosives.

I wouldn't know where to begin to try to decode the symbolism in Dürer's work, but many scholars have. The Virgin and Child with a Monkey, Holy Family with a Grasshopper, or the seven-headed dragon in The Apocalypse. Was he a believer or was it merely the pleasure of his imagination? You want a Muslim-Christian conflict -- witness the par-boiling of St. John in The Martyrdom of St. John -- ouch.

Religion, sex, gender identity, and politics -- all enticing -- but it is Dürer's mastery of the medium alone that will astonish most visitors. The Clark graciously supplies magnifying glasses so one can explore his insanely detailed imagery.

The man was a visionary work horse, not unlike William Blake after him, and if Dürer had the technology of today he would no doubt be in production as William Kentridge is, expanding into digital media. I sense a few woodcuts in my future.

The Strange World of Albrecht Dürer runs through March 13th at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Mass.

2 comments:

Donovan R. Walling said...

Albrecht Dürer was a quintessential Renaissance man, a German Leonardo in many ways. I discovered him years ago, when I lived in his hometown, Nürnberg, as a teenager. But coming to know this artist-scientist is like peeling an onion over a lifetime. Though Roman Catholic, he seems to have sympathized with Martin Luther's ideas. They were contemporaries. In his diary, Dürer expressed his desire to draw Luther in 1520, the year before Luther was excommunicated by Pope Leo X. Thank you for highlighting this exhibit of his work. He well deserves to be better known.

Mark said...

Thank you Donovan, indeed a very complex man. The detail in his work alludes to this also I think.