The second outstanding exhibition brought to Oradea by German art collector Thomas Emmerling with whom Țării Crișurilor Museum has started a fruitful collaboration. The art collector was born in Nuremberg, Germany and has Transylvanian genealogical roots.
The exhibition includes 111 heliogravures made by Charles Amand-Durand after metal etchings and woodcuts signed by the famous German artist Albrecht Dürer and published in 1875 by the French National Library, a replica made by Karl Diehl on the celebration of 500 years since Dürer’s birth of the first pocket watch invented by Peter Henlein and an armillary sphere, which indicates the European understanding of the universe during the Renaissance.
Heliogravure is the oldest procedure for reproducing photographic images. It was first invented in the early 19th century by Joseph Nicéphore Niepce, in France, and later perfected by Talbot, Niepce de Saint-Victor, Baldus and Klic.
The process involves two distinct steps. First, in a complex photochemical procedure that creates the intaglio surface, the photographic image is fixed and etched upon a specially prepared copper plate. The finished plate is then placed on a hand-turned press, and the image is printed onto dampened etching paper using special inks.
Charles Amand-Durand (1831-1905) is considered the pioneer in France of making and publishing heliogravure reproductions after the masters of the 15th-17th centuries, appreciated by European collectors and institutions, such as the Louvre Museum.
The work of an outstanding European graphic artist, a great master of all times, Albrecht Dürer is now here, in the Art Gallery of the Țării Crișurilor Museum. As art historian Elie Faure, noted, he was “an artist mastering his art, a poet’s soul and a philosopher’s mind.” Dürer’s art can be placed at the intersection of the Gothic with the Renaissance, but like his contemporaries, Holbein and Cranach, he is a Renaissance artist impregnated by the universalist spirit of human knowledge.
Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) was a German painter, engraver and art theorist, one of the leading figures in the history of universal art. His work illustrates the ideas of the Renaissance of Humanism and Reformation, exerting a special influence on many generations of artists that succeeded him. He made a decisive contribution to the development of engraving as a stand-alone art genre.
He was also concerned with mathematics, mechanics, literature, etc. He wrote technical works and art theory, for example, the four books entitled Painting lessons. To this day, The Food of The Painter’s Apprentice is a true “bestseller”, one of the most widely read books.
During his 57 years of life, Albrecht Dürer created over 350 metal etchings and woodcuts, 1300 paintings in watercolour, tempera, oil on wood and canvas.
He was born in 1471, in Nuremberg, third out of 18 children of a silversmith named Albrecht Dürer the Elder, to distinguish him from his son, Albrecht Dürer the Younger. The latter wrote in his family chronicle everything he knew from his father about their family, relatives and fate, stating that “his family comes from a place not far from a small town called Jula, which is 8 miles below Oradea, a village called Ajtósi, and his people raised cattle and horses”. Several villages with the same name are located east of Salonta, in Bihor county. Other historiographers place the village near Cefa.
After the apprenticeship in his father’s workshop in Nuremberg, Albrecht Dürer went to the workshop of painter and engraver Michael Wolgemut where he made his first woodcut, between 1486-1490. After completing his apprenticeship at Wolgemut, young Dürer set off on the usual journey of the apprentice. It is said that at some point he also arrived in Transylvania.
Dürer opens his own painting and engraving workshop in the city of Nuremberg, in 1496. With the help of his godfather, Anton Koberger, he starts on a large variety of subjects: mythological, biblical, portraits, etc.
The first series of etchings edited by Dürer on his own, the Apocalypse, in 15 variants, was a resounding success, as he released more similar editions later on. In addition to woodcuts, the artist also worked on copper plates carved with a chisel, elaborating pieces of rare beauty and perfection.
Țării Crișurilor Museum holds three original etchings by Albrecht Dürer and four copies after his works dating in the 15th century, part of two well-known series: The Passions of Jesus and the Life of the Virgin and they are displayed in the exhibition.
The Passions of Jesus was his most beloved theme. It returns as a leitmotif in his creation, starting with 1496 and ending with 1513. He will produce several series: woodcuts or metal etchings, in large or small format, grouped on three subjects: The Small Cycle of Passions and The Great Cycle of Passions. The last series, a small format, on brass, is intended for connoisseurs and collectors.
With few exceptions, the 22 exhibits in the exhibition belong to the third series of the Passions of Jesus. These encompass all the hypostasis of Jesus’ sufferings from the Prayer on the Mount of Olives, the Capture of Jesus, Jesus at Caiaphas, Jesus before Pilate, Pilate washing his hands, the Flogging, Crowning With Thorns, Bearing The Cross, Crucifying, Descending From The Cross, The Tomb and Resurrection.
In most of the works, the calm, emaciated, peaceful figure of Jesus contrasts with the brute, violent force of his tormentors. The emphasis is on the movement of the characters, their angry attitude, the twisting of bodies in multidirectional courses. Then, the compositional attributes also enhance the pathos of the scene, along with the incisional reinforcement and the lights.
Another series of works, counting 15 exhibits, depict the Life of the Virgin. The elements of the Gothic style are intertwined with the first signs of a new way of expression. Usually, the Virgin appears as a whole figure, in a holy light or sitting, surrounded by angels and the Holy Trinity. Sometimes, the background presents a simple landscape, carried out on several perspectives and architectural elements specific to the medieval German village.
The Holy Virgin is endowed with the supreme prerogatives of the Empress of the world: the crown on her head and the sceptre in her hand. She mediates in the physical world the connection between people and her divine Son, Jesus. At other times, she is dressed in the German aristocratic fashion of the late 15th century or as a common woman breastfeeding her baby.
Albrecht Dürer paid attention to other biblical and religious figures, such as Apostles Peter and Paul, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, John and Saints Anton, George, Cristopher, Sebastian, Eustathius, Hieronymus, etc. The apostles, clothed in large cloaks, carry the staff of the Christian missionaries. On the other hand, the acts of knighthood of some saints, the martyrdom of others or the intellectual activity such as that of St. Hieronymus are significant indications for their moral convictions and spiritual life.
The artist also praised the simple man in genre scenes such as: At the Doctor, Market, Peasant Dance, the Bagpipe Player, Lovers, Walking, etc. but also mythological subjects: Apollo and Diana, Family of Satyrs, Kidnapping, Nemesis, etc. The latter has been particularly appreciated for respecting the vitreous proportions of the body and the anecdotal landscape. Almost all the images created by Dürer include a fragment of landscape, each time a different one, charming and captivating, and a piece of German architecture.
Dürer portrayed his friends, mainly his closest friends, then some contemporary personalities: Willibald Pirckheimer, Albrecht von Brandenburg, Erasmus of Rotterdam, Ioachim Patinir, Philip Melanchthon, Frederick the Wise, Prince Elector of Saxony etc. The effigies of these people were transmitted to posterity also thanks to the works of Albrecht Dürer. He is also recognized for his contributions to the enrichment of the plastic language of engraving, a new artistic craft that began to circulate in the world.
Albrecht Dürer has enjoyed celebrity and prestige during his life. The European royal courts competed in the offers made to him, enticing him to work as a court painter. He accepted eventually the offer of German Emperor Maximilian II and his successor Carol V, who granted him a living rent, while acknowledging his work and merits in the field of art.
Albrecht Dürer marked the most flourishing stage of German art in the late 15th century and the beginning of the 16th century, with perennial implications in the European artistic heritage.