Durer, Albrecht a German painter and engraver, was born in Nuremberg May 20, 1471. When fifteen years of age he was placed by his father with Michael Wohlgemuth, the leading painter of Nuremberg. With him he remained four years, after which he traveled through Germany and the Netherlands, studying his own art and the collateral branches. In 1494 he established himself permanently at Nuremberg, and shortly after married the beautiful daughter of Hans Fritz, a distinguished artisan. The union, on account of the shrewish temper of his wife, was not a happy one, and it is thought, even shortened his life. In 1506 Durer was enabled, by the aid of his celebrated friend, Wilibald Pirkheimer, to make a journey to Venice, Bologna, and other places of Northern Italy, where he was considerably influenced by the Italian art, especially by the works of Giovanni Bellini. With his return to Nuremberg in 1507 began the period of his great celebrity. The emperor Maximilian was one of the first to recognize his merits, and he, as well as his successor, Charles V, successively appointed Durer court painter, while many of the great cities contended for the possession of his works. In 1518 he was at the Diet of Augsburg, where he painted the portraits of many princes and prominent men. In 1520 and 1521 he made a journey to the Netherlands, where he was received with great honors. He was considerably influenced by the Dutch art, and found fault with his former pictures as being void of that simplicity of nature which now appeared to him as the greatest charm of art. The works which he produced under the influence of this changed conception of art exhibit a refinement of the exuberant fancy in which he formerly delighted, and the two pictures, in particular, which he produced in 1526, containing figures of the size of life of our apostles, are numbered among the greatest works which Christian art has ever produced. Diirer was an enthusiastic adherent of the Reformation, though it is doubtful if he ever fully separated from the Church of Rome. He died April 6, 1528.
Both as an engraver and as a painter Durer belongs among the greatest artists of all ages. His works reflect the nobility of his character, to which many of his eminent contemporaries, as Melanathon, Camerarius, and Pirkheimer, bear testimony. Though a tendency to the fantastic, a peculiarity of old German art, somewhat obstructed the full development of his artistic power, especially in his youth, he surpassed all artists of his age in grandeur of conception. Among the best paintings of Durer belong the Assumption of the Virgin Mary (1509), which in 1674 was destroyed at the burning of the palace at Munich; the exhibition of the Holy Trinity, together with many saints and blessed (1511), now at Vienna; Adam and Eve, in figures of full size of life (1507), now at Madrid. Engraving he found in its infancy, and carried it to a perfection never since surpassed. Among his best copper-plate engravings belong "St. Jerome in his Cell," "Melancholy," and "the Knight, Death, and Devil." The most noted of his wood-cuts are the "Greater" and "Lesser Passion," and the "Life of the Virgin." Durer also wrote several works in the German language, which had a great influence, and were translated into Latin and several modern languages. On the tercentenary of his birth the corner-stone of a monument to Diirer was laid in his native city, Nuremberg, where his memory has always been held in great veneration. The work was completed by the addition of a bronze statue of the artist by Ranch. See Heller, Leben u. Werke A. Diurers (Leipz. 2 volumes); Von Eye, Leben und Werke Albrecht Durers (Nordlingon, 1860); H. Grimm, Albrecht Durer (Berlin, 1866); Durer-Album (Nuremb. 1857); Durers Kupferstiche, Radirungen, Holzschnitte, und Zeichnungen (Hanover, 1861); Durers Handzeichnungen, etc., in 16 photograph. u. photolithograph. Nachbildungen (Vienna, 1864).