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Albrecht Altdorfer

(c. 1480—1538) German painter and engraver


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(b ?Amberg, c.1480; d Regensburg, 12 Feb. 1538).

German painter, printmaker, draughtsman, and architect, active in Regensburg, of which town he was a citizen from 1505 onwards. Nothing is recorded of his training, but his early work was influenced by Cranach and he was also familiar with Dürer's woodcuts and engravings. Mingled with these German elements was a knowledge of the art of Mantegna, perhaps through the mediation of Michael Pacher. Yet in spite of these varied influences Altdorfer's style always remained personal. Most of his paintings are religious works, but he was one of the first artists to show an interest in landscape as an independent genre. In works such as Christ Taking Leave of His Mother (?1520, NG, London) he achieved a wonderful unity of mood between action and landscape, and two pure landscape paintings (without any figures) by him are known (NG, London, and Alte Pin., Munich) (see also Danube School). His patrons included the emperor Maximilian I (see Habsburg) and also Louis X, Duke of Bavaria, for whom he painted the celebrated Battle of Issus (1529, Alte Pin., Munich), which formed part of a large series of famous battle pieces from classical antiquity. With its dazzling light effects, teeming figures, and brilliant colours, it is one of the finest examples of Altdorfer's rich imaginative powers. In addition to his paintings, he produced engravings, etchings, and woodcuts, and he was an outstanding draughtsman. From 1526 until his death he also worked as town architect of Regensburg. No architectural work by him survives, but his interest in architecture and his skill in handling intricate problems of perspective are demonstrated in several of his paintings, for example Susanna and the Elders (1526, Alte Pin., Munich).

Subjects: Renaissance Art.


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