Painter, printmaker, theorist: Nuremberg’s most famous artist-in-residence was Renaissance master Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528).

Much like his contemporary, Leonardo da Vinci, Dürer was celebrated throughout his life for his innovative talents and prodigious body of work. His patronage included kings and queens. Andrea Mantegna and da Vinci were among his acquaintances, whether in person or by letters. Along with his portraits and self-portraits, Dürer is most known for his incredibly sophisticated woodcuts which revolutionised the medium in a way not seen again until M.C. Escher. Dürer’s vast portfolio also includes altar pieces, books, watercolours, books, pen-and-ink drawings and copper engravings. A native son of his beloved Nuremberg, he often travelled throughout Europe to study and connect with some of the old masters (and collect important commissions)… but he always returned.

During the 15th and 16th centuries, Nuremberg was one of the most artistic, inventive and commercial centres of the world. Great minds converged with an eye towards progress and a long, decorated history as a centre of humanism, science, printing and mechanical invention. The Renaissance was an exciting time to be alive, particularly in Germany (then known as the Holy Roman Empire). Johann Gutenberg created the first printing press in the mid-1400s and the worlds of science and mechanical invention were truly flourishing.

A deeply religious man, Albrecht Dürer was also highly influenced by the new world around him. He painted one of the most recognisable images of Adam and Eve in 1507 and carved woodcuts in 1515 of the first maps of the stars of the Northern and Southern Hemisphere. Praying Hands, his iconic pen-and-ink sketch circa 1507, is one of his most revered works, along with his distinctive signature on all his pieces. His books were engraved with pages of pure art in an era where images were not readily available in magazines and computers.

Many of these works are celebrated in the very same home he originally shared with his wife Agnes Frey Dürer (and his mother and younger brother after his father’s death). Dürer’s Home, turned into a museum honouring his life and works, has been meticulously preserved to maintain an air of its one-time owner. “Back to Dürer” is its motto and it’s easy to see why as you step into the master’s living and working quarters. A special attraction includes a replica of a large painting and printing workshop, where his techniques are demonstrated. The artist himself ‘greets’ visitors with a digital display of his famous self-portrait of 1500. Via a headset, wife Agnes chats about daily life in the household and by special request, sometimes even makes an appearance for guided tours (played by an actress in costume). In the screening room, a multivision show further enlightens visitors, who are invited to explore four floors of exhibits.

The artist’s epitaph proclaims: “Whatever was immortal in Albrecht Dürer lies beneath this mound.” Luckily for us, his immortal works were left behind to cherish.

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