Albrecht Durer has been considered to be one of the greatest German Renaissance artists of all time. During his time, the Reformation was in full swing, and many today are not sure of which side Durer was on. The question most people ask when it comes to Albrecht Durer is whether or not he was Catholic or Lutheran, but it is not that simple. It must be remembered that even Martin Luther did not want to leave the Catholic Church; he merely wanted to improve it. Martin Luther and Albrecht Durer were very like-minded men and while both sides provide a good argument, there is convincing evidence that Albrecht Durer supported Martin Luther in his endeavors and at heart believed in the same ideas as Luther. This however, does not mean that he became a “Lutheran”.
Albrecht Durer was born on May 21, 1471 in Nurnberg, Germany. He was the second son of Albrecht Durer the Elder, a Hungarian goldsmith, and Barbara Holper. At a young age Durer began working in his father’s workshop as a draughtsman, and in 1486 became an apprentice to Michael Wohlgemuth. Durer apprenticed Wohlgemuth for three years and then left his workshop to travel. In his years of travel he most likely went to the Netherlands, Alsace, and Basel, Switzerland, where he completed his first woodcut (Albrecht Durer (German artist) -- Britannica Online Encyclopedia).
Durer completed this set of travels in 1494, and returned to Nurnberg, where he married Agnes Frey. That same year he took his first journey to Italy, which strongly influenced his humanist style. This time spent traveling also encouraged his painting of landscapes, which was new in art at this time (Albrecht Durer (German artist) -- Britannica Online Encyclopedia).
In 1512, Durer began working for the Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian I. He continued to work for the Emperor until 1519, when Maximilian died (Albrecht Durer (German artist) -- Britannica Online Encyclopedia). This event took a huge toll on Durer and as a close friend said “Turer male stat” or “Durer is in bad shape” (Panofsky, 198).
After this difficult event, Jan van Scorel visited Durer in Nuremburg in 1519 and found his friend “preoccupied with the ‘teaching by which Luther had begun to stir the quiet world” (McColl, “THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY: Dürer AND THE REFORM OF ART”, 56). Scorel found Durer constantly studying documents of Luther’s, such as the Ninety-Five Thesis. These works were passed around the Sodalitas Staupitziana, a group of Nuremberg humanists, and so Durer was one of the first to read it (McColl, “THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY: Dürer AND THE REFORM OF ART”, 56).
After a time of mourning and studying, Durer emerged with a new outlook on life and religion. In a letter to Georg Spalatinus, in 1520, Durer said, “If God helps me to see Dr. Martinus Luther; I will diligently make his portrait and engrave it as a lasting memory of the Christian man who has helped me out of great anxieties” (Panofsky, 198).
Even though Albrecht Durer...