Dürer's Journeys: Travels of a Renaissance Artist, National Gallery, London: 6 March-13 June 2021

The first significant UK exhibition of German Renaissance artist Dürer, showing works in a wide range of media, illustrating his career as a painter, draughtsman and printmaker.

This is the first exhibition  to focus on the artist through his travels bringing the visitor closer to the man himself and the people and places he visited, through over 100 paintings, drawings, prints and documents loaned from museums and private collections worldwide.

Dürer’s Journeys: Travels of a Renaissance Artist (13 February –16 May 2021) for the first time, chronicles the Nuremberg-born artist’s journeys to the Alps and Italy in the mid-1490s; to Venice in 1505–7; and to the Netherlands in 1520–1, journeys which brought him into contact with artists and fuelled his curiosity and creativity as well as increasing his fame and influence.  

One of the exhibition’s most striking loans is  a double-sided painting of a Madonna and Child from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, which is  shown in the UK for the first time.

The picture, which was intended as a private devotional image, was made for a Nuremberg family and carries on its reverse side a depiction of the story of Lot and his daughters from the Book of Genesis. Lot and his two children are seen fleeing from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah as Lot's wife is turned into a pillar of salt for disobeying the divine command by looking back on the scene of retribution.

The painting shows the influence on Dürer of both Netherlandish and Italian Renaissance artists such as Giovanni Bellini and reflects the huge importance of travel and exchange of artistic ideas in Dürer’s career. 

The exhibition starts by introducing Dürer and Nuremberg before showing his very first travels as an artist in training and then his first major journey to the Alps and Italy. His Saint Jerome in the National Gallery’s collection, with its detailed landscape and extraordinary reverse side,  shows the huge development in Dürer’s work following his visit to Italy in the mid-1490s.

The exhibition  explores Dürer’s time in Venice in 1505-7. The  final journey explored in detail is Dürer’s travels to the Netherlands in 1520-1. Highlights will include some of his early studies of human proportion and visitors will experience how Dürer’s career developed in the years following his return to Nuremberg when he created the engravings which have become some of his best known works such as the Melancholia and Saint Jerome. 

As well as works with religious subjects, the exhibition includes portraits and some of his most beautiful and engaging drawings in which Dürer recorded the people, places and animals he saw.  

The exhibition is organised by the National Gallery in partnership with the Suermondt-Ludwig Museum, Aachen whose Dürer exhibition in 2020–21 will  commemorate the 500th anniversary of the journey the artist made to the city in 1520–21.

Albrecht Dürer Madonna and Child [obverse] c. 1496/1499 © National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
Albrecht Dürer Madonna and Child [obverse] c. 1496/1499 © National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
Albrecht Dürer Lot and His Daughters [reverse] c. 1496/1499 © National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
Albrecht Dürer Lot and His Daughters [reverse] c. 1496/1499 © National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
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