Work by Albrecht Drer Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

painting "St. Jerome in his Study by Albrecht Durer. Specifically, it will discuss the historical context and aesthetic effect of the painting, while deciding what makes the painting cool. The work is a detailed engraving on paper created meticulously in black and white, created in 1514, and measuring 24.8 x 18.8 cm. It is located in the Ball State Museum of Art in Indiana, and the Clark Art Institute of Massachusetts. This engraving is magnificent in its detail and its subject matter. At the center of the work is an old man, St. Jerome, bent low over his work on a low table bathed in light from the windows that line the room on the old man's right. His study is roomy enough to include window seats under the oversized windows, items hanging from the ceiling and on the wall behind St. Jerome, and a pair of animals curled up at the base of the table, waiting for St. Jerome to complete his work. One of the animals in a content lion, and the other is a dog, curled up in sleep. Light surrounds St. Jerome's head like a halo, and while some of the room is bathed in deep shadow, the table and the work are brightly lit, showing the importance of St. Jerome's work transcribing in his study. What is so miraculous about this piece is the great detail Durer showed in the room. The windows are made up of tiny circles of glass, and their shadows radiated into the room, showing their makeup and the great attention to detail. The wooden ceiling is so realistic viewers can see the knots and grain of the wood, and a variety of items hang on the back wall, indicating that St. Jerome does have other pastimes, such as gardening, to keep him busy. The dominant colors in this work are black and white, while of course there are a variety of grays used in shadow and light. The starkness of the engraving gives a high degree of naturalism and realism to the print, and focuses directly on the man and his work, which is the main subject of this work. Light and space are quite remarkable, with the architecture rendered completely believably, and the space of the room consistent with the work St. Jerome is doing. Light is portrayed quite naturally from the windows, and lights the room realistically, with shadow and murkiness in the right places. This engraving is quite remarkable for its realism, detail, and the mood it creates, which is one of studious dedication, mixed with a bit of mystery. (There is that skull on the window ledge to make the viewer wonder just what St. Jerome has been up to in his past.) The skull represents inevitable death, while the hourglass on the back wall represents the pass inevitable passage of time.

Durer's work was part of the Northern Renaissance movement, which centered on Germany and the Netherlands in the 15th and 16th centuries. Since Durer was a German painter who spent much time in Nuremberg, this makes sense. The Renaissance movement in Italy influenced the movement, but it retained a very dark, Gothic influence, which is quite apparent in this work by Durer. Gothic art was characterized by its great attention to detail, and again, this is quite apparent in Durer's work. The Northern Renaissance movement gradually gave way to the Mannerism movement (1520 and beyond). Durer's later works, (after "St. Jerome"), were often categorized in this movement. The Northern Renaissance movement was quite important because it blended what was going on in Italy with the popular Gothic movement, and Durer's engraving is cool for a variety of reasons. First, there is much more to the engraving than first meets the eye. Initially, the viewer is drawn to the man at the table. Clearly, he is writing on a tablet of some sort, and his work is important, scholarly, and religious in nature, as the halo around his head indicates. However, there is much more in the room that makes the viewer wonder about the man and his mission. For example, the lion and the dog lie dozing at their master's feet. The dog is completely comfortable, laying on its side and sleeping, while the lion is awake, but quite comfortable and ready to doze off. What kind of scholar has a lion for a pet in the middle of the city? Then there is the skull resting on the windowsill. Clearly, the skull signifies death; while the animals signify the joy of life, but why does the scholar have a skull on his windowsill? Are there skeletons in the closet? These details are fascinating, and make the viewer want to know more about the scholar and the man who painted him, and that is cool.

Another item that makes this engraving cool is the great attention to detail in the actual work. It is clear Durer was a stickler for getting every detail just right, and everything in this engraving rings true, from the architectural details in the room, to the items hanging on the wall and the animals. It is clear the artist understood perspective and light, but he also understood anatomy. The muscles in the leg of the dozing lion are quite apparent, and the details in even the upholstery on the chairs and pillows are quite remarkable. This engraving reminds me of some of the modern engravings by Escher, who seems to try to include as many details as possible into a print, creating a maze of detail that moves the eye from one item to another. This work is quite interesting because it shows the room in such detail, but also because of the items the artist included in the work. The skull and lion are two of the most unique items, but there are many more in the room, from the lifelike gourd hanging over the table, to the back wall covered with items. The artist put each thing there for a specific reason, and the viewer must make their own decision about why the items are there and what they mean, and that is quite cool.

The overall effect of this painting is part wonder and part admiration for the artist who could create such fantastic environments. The work is crowded with detail, and yet if any of it were removed, the work would suffer. Part of what is so fascinating about this work is the vast amount of detail in the items filling the room. Every time the piece is viewed, it seems another portion comes into focus and another detail shows itself. This is quite cool, but it is also quite amazing. It is clear Durer knew what he was doing, and that he made a study not just of art, but also of the human and animal forms, of building, and of the general minutia of life. This engraving shows that great attention to detail, but it also gives a little capsule of what it was like to be an artist during the Renaissance. This room looks cozy and bright, and it does not seem it would be much of a hardship to work there. Not only does the viewer see the scholar at work, they see a sample room of the Renaissance, and it looks comfortable, upscale, and quite comfortable. There is also quite a bit of geometric perspective at work in the work, and the room is perfect in its squares and angles. The composition of all the elements work to create a skillful and interesting whole that is still captivating today and that is quite cool.

The expressiveness of this piece is almost overwhelming. Using the naturalist approach, this room is quite real to the viewer, and so is the…

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