Dürer was here
A Journey becomes Legend
The exhibition, organised in partnership with the National Gallery in London, offers a precise – and fresh – look at the so-called “Journey to the Netherlands” (1520/21). An enigmatic journey to whose legendary character the painting and drawing genius himself contributed his own share – in writing.
Albrecht Dürer kept a diary, a kind of accounts book with travel notes. This has been preserved in two transcriptions produced about a hundred years later. The Suermondt Ludwig Museum will be exhibiting the version from the Nuremberg State Archives.
90 masterpieces bear testimony to Dürer’s exceptional artistry – even while on the move, without his own studio. A complement of about 70 drawings, paintings and sculptures by contemporary artists Dürer met underway – artists who were inspired by him and who inspired him – round the exhibition off into an artistic-, cultural- and social-historical “full picture” of the journey, never before seen in this form.
The artistic milieu involved is simply monumental. Antwerp’s guild of artists – headed by Joos van Cleve – shows at the very start just exactly what Dürer’s visit from Nuremberg, a good 800 kilometres away, means for his fellow artists: a feast. Accompanying Dürer on his journey, we encounter renowned artists literally by the dozen: Quentin Massys, Bernard van Orley, Conrad Meit, Jan Provoost, Dirk Vellert and Lucas van Leyden, to name but a few. Dürer is a guest in the studio and at the wedding of Joachim Patinir, whom he refers to as a good “landscape painter”, incidentally coining a new genre term.
Dürer spends three weeks altogether in Aachen around the coronation celebrations for King Charles V. He enjoys himself in the thermal baths and gambling with his companions. He marvels at the Holy Relics, admires and draws the Cathedral and the Katschhof, as well as the Town Hall. He draws portraits of his companions and of a dog at rest.
A magnificent “School of Seeing”
This period marks the absolute peak of Dürer’s productivity in terms of drawings. According to the latest research, about 120 preserved leaves with drawings can be assigned to the journey to the Netherlands. Dürer drew with silverpoint, pen, brush, charcoal and chalk (sometimes in combinations) on paper, coloured paper and vellum. Dürer even produced paintings – which require far more effort in their production than drawings – while on his journey.
Dürer on the road is particularly revealing in terms of the “Dürer” phenomenon – in terms of how a masterful artisan went about climbing the social ladder, and what it was like to be an artist in a world that had not yet developed a term for what we today refer to as artistry.
The exhibition is a magnificent “School of Seeing” with truly astounding works of art and the story of a journey that became a legend. For the show, the Suermondt Ludwig Museum and the National Gallery will be bringing together loans from Europe and the USA in Aachen and London.