Durer's Woodcuts and Engravings.
Durer improved the printing techniques of the time and expanded the subject matter that they depicted. Instead of the tradition of making engravings to order he kept stocks of his work selling many at home and on his travels to the Netherlands and beyond.
The artist also produced many famous engravings. His Adam and Eve of 1504 was produced the year before his second trip to Italy, and in many ways attempts to utilise some of Durer's new Italian learning of harmony and beauty. The results are not entirely convincing but certainly, the artist was proud enough of his work, he signed it with his full name in Latin.('Albrecht Durer of Nuremberg made this engraving in 1504'). He left for Italy in 1505, he was famous, many of his engravings were being copied, even so, the artist was keen to absorb more from the art of the Italians.
When the artist returned from Venice to Nuremberg in the spring of 1507 he had a new, more natural view of the human form. This can be shown by comparing his oil paintings of Adam and Eve with his engraving of 1504.
The engraving of 1504 attempts to present idealised depictions of the human form. The figures of Adam and Eve are inspired by classical monuments, Eve, in particular, is very statuesque, her feet firmly set on solid ground. Adam is based on the pose of the Apollo Belvedere, a marble sculpture from Classical Antiquity. The artist has created a masterpiece that required many preparatory drawings and measurements. The cat and the mouse live side by side in harmony with the elk and cow in the Garden of Eden.
The garden disappears into the dark background of the work allowing the clear outline of the figures to show in contrast to the shade of the forest. The oil panels of 1507 display the influences of Italian art. They show Eve as a more complex character, see how she positively dances to take the forbidden fruit from the serpent coiled on the tree of knowledge
Adam displays an air of bewilderment, unsure of the consequences of the actions unfolding before him, he receives the apple and becomes a willing party to the first sin. It must be remembered that these two works were made using two totally different techniques and any comparisons must take this into account.
The three engravings shown below complete a famous trinity of engravings by Durer, because of their superior technical attributes these three
prints are described as the artist’s Master Engravings.
Note the figure of the Devil, (represented as a hairy goat), and Death, who looms in the background holding an hourglass. The Knight in full armour rides through this menacing landscape. Resolute he represents a Christianity that is superior to the perils of the supernatural. The Knight on his horse is based on the equestrian statues of Renaissance Italy.
It has been recorded that Durer's general character displayed an unhappy seriousness and Melencolia 1 could show the artist, frustrated by his lack of inspiration, dejected and bored by his slow progress. St Jerome symbolises religious contemplation as he works in
his study translating the Scriptures from Greek and Hebrew into Latin. The lion
and the dog peacefully dozing contentedly add to the calm serenity of the scene.