Lecture Series - Dürer at Home and Abroad

October 12, 2021

If you are unable to attend the live sessions, do not worry - all those who register will automatically be sent copies of the lectures to view in your own time (from around four hours after they take place). 

Dürer at Home and Abroad

Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) needs little introduction: ambitious painter, superb portraitist, sensitive observer of nature, the first writer on art theory north of the Alps, but above all, the greatest graphic artist of the Renaissance. His exploitation of the new medium of print – aesthetic, technical and entrepreneurial – gained him fame and fortune. Through his many self-portraits, drawings, watercolours and writings he affords us glimpses into his personality and preoccupations, rare for a Renaissance artist. Whether painting views of the Italian Alps, braving storms to see a beached whale in Zeeland, or recording his reactions to Aztec treasures seen in Brussels, his curiosity and zest for life are manifest in his art and writings.

This series of three webinars – conceived to complement the National Gallery’s long-awaited exhibition Dürer’s Journeys – will explore Dürer’s life and work, both at home in Nuremberg and abroad, encompassing his youthful travels in the Rhineland as a journeyman-artist, his trips to Italy as an established painter and printmaker, and his journey of 1520-21 to the Netherlands at the height of his fame.

Lecture 1
Dürer in Nuremberg: Childhood, Boyhood, Youth - Monday 15 November at 11am
This first session considers Dürer’s artistic roots and early career in the city of Nuremberg, one of the pre-eminent trading and craft centres of renaissance Europe, where metal production and book printing were key industries, crucial to Dürer’s formation. Also crucial were family relationships and professional networks: his father was a goldsmith, his teacher Wolgemut was both a painter and a book illustrator, his godfather Koberger was the city’s foremost publisher. His apprenticeship completed, in 1490 Dürer embarked on his travels (Wanderjahre), honing his skills and gaining experience in the Rhineland. Returning to Nuremberg in 1494 he married Agnes Frey, set up his own workshop and began making and marketing his own prints, painting portraits of Nuremberg’s elite, and publishing his ground-breaking Apocalypse in 1498. Still only in his twenties, he was by now internationally famous.
A Slide List for this lecture can be downloaded here.
Lecture 2
Dürer’s Italian Journeys - Friday 19 November at 11am
Dürer’s watercolours of Alpine towns and scenery indicate that he travelled to Italy in 1494-5 – a journey that is undocumented and sometimes doubted by scholars. This session explores the evidence for the first journey, undertaken when Dürer was not yet famous. Back in Nüremberg, his increasing success as a printmaker, with works such as the woodcut series The Life of the Virgin and the virtuosic Adam and Eve engraving of 1504, ensured his fame on both sides of the Alps. Dürer returned to Italy in 1505-6, basing himself in Venice, where he mingled with artists, musicians and cognoscenti, his experiences recorded in ten surviving letters to his great friend Willibald Pirckheimer that provide vivid insights into his personality and preoccupations. His crowning achievement in Venice was the commission for The Feast of the Rose Garlands, the altarpiece for the German confraternity, enabling him to display his northerner’s technical virtuosity alongside a newly-acquired Venetian sense of colour. Italy influenced Dürer in other ways, notably his interest in proportion, which culminated in his Four Books on Human Proportion, published posthumously in 1528, the first theoretical work on art to be written in German.
A Slide List for this lecture can be downloaded here.
Lecture 3
Dürer’s Journey to the Netherlands - Wednesday 24 November at 11am
In July 1520 Dürer, with his wife Agnes and their maid, set off from Nuremberg for the Netherlands, where they remained for a year. The pretext for the journey was to attend the coronation of the Emperor Charles V at Aachen (seen to the right, in a sketch by Dürer), to ensure the renewal of his Imperial pension. It was also a business trip: Dürer took with him many of his prints for sale. Surely, though, it was above all an excuse for the 49 year-old artist to travel once more. Basing himself in Antwerp, the most cosmopolitan, modern city in Europe and the centre of a new, global trade, Dürer travelled extensively, indulging his tireless curiosity and his hunger for new sights. He was amazed by the wealth and sophistication of the Netherlandish towns, and by what he saw there, from locally-produced artworks to recently imported Aztec treasures. Like a celebrity, he was feted by local artists and met the great and the good, including Margaret of Austria, Regent of the Netherlands, and Erasmus. He recorded his experiences in a diary and made drawings of the places he saw and the people he met, leaving us a vivid account of this, his last Wanderjahre.
A Slide List for this lecture can be downloaded here.
Paula Nuttall     

Paula Nuttall


Paula Nuttall is an art historian specialising in the Renaissance. She gained her PhD at the Courtauld Institute, on artistic relations between Flanders and Italy, a field in which she is an international authority. She began her lecturing career at the British Institute of Florence. Paula is Course Director of the V&A Medieval and Renaissance Year Course, and an Associate Lecturer at the Courtauld. She also lectures for the Arts Society (formerly NADFAS), the Royal Collection and the Art Fund. In 2013 she co-curated the exhibition Face to Face: Flanders, Florence and Renaissance Painting at the Huntington Art Collection in California and collaborated on the 2020 exhibition Van Eyck: an Optical Revolution at Ghent. Her numerous publications include From Flanders to Florence: the Impact of Netherlandish Painting, 1400-1500 (Yale University Press, 2004) and a chapter on the Northern Renaissance for the Oxford Illustrated History of the Renaissance.

Format for Lectures

Paula will give three one-hour illustrated lectures for £29.

You will not need to download any software and the lecture will work in any browser. For the best experience use a desktop or laptop - but it will also work on an iPad or similar tablet.

We hope you enjoy the recording.


                      Register for Dürer at Home and Abroad



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