Winter 2010: "Albrecht Dürer in Contexts"

Ever since the sixteenth century, Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) has figured as an iconic artist. In fact, the histiography of the history of art is intimately intertwined with the reception of Dürer. Whether his self-portaits were said to exemplify Renaissance subjectivity, his prints were taken as an expression of Germanness, or his religious art interpreted as emblematic of a particularly fervent religiosity on the eve of the Reformation, the artist's rich œuvre of paintings, prints, drawings, and writings has repeatedly served as a window onto religion, culture, and society on the brink of modernity. The artist's persistent iconicity can be traced to a deliberate self-presentation which Dürer, the artist-humanist, and his circle fashioned as well as disseminated in a variety of media. 

This interdisciplinary seminar will respond to Dürer's enduring presence by engaging the artwork and its reception as well as the social and civic contexts in which this art was circulated. Our discussions will primarily revolve around the close analysis of Dürer's paintings (such as his self-portraits and altarpieces), prints (such as Melencolia I), and theoretical and autobiographical writings. 

A reading knowledge of German is desirable, but not essential, as much of the best literature on Dürer, Nuremberg and late medieval / Renaissance Germany is available in English. Pending funding, we will also undertake a field trip to the Metropolitan Museum and the Cloisters in New York (March 19-21).