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The Young Dürer: Drawing the Figure

The Young Dürer: Drawing the Figure


Accompanying an exhibition that examines the figure drawings of the young Albrecht Dürer, this catalogue focuses on his formative years from around 1490, when he completed his artistic training, to 1496, when he established himself permanently as a master in Nuremberg in southern Germany. This period included the so-called Wanderjahre or 'journeyman years', during which the artist travelled widely and was exposed to a range of new experiences. His drawings demonstrate the significance of these early influences in shaping his ambitious artistic personality. 


Dürer initially trained with his father as a goldsmith and at a young age proved to be an exceptional draughtsman. Settling on a change of career, he subsequently served for three years as an apprentice to the successful Nuremberg painter Michael Wolgemut. Dürer later wrote: "When I had finished this service, my father sent me off, and I stayed away for four years". Dürer was in his early twenties, and his travel years were to be vital for his intellectual and artistic development. His exact itinerary remains uncertain but he is known to have visited Basel and Strasburg as well as Colmar, where he had hoped to meet the great printmaker Martin Schongauer. Upon his return to Nuremberg he married Agnes Frey, whose celebrated portrait by Dürer, inscribed Mein Agnes (My Agnes) is one of the highlights of the exhibition. A second trip towards northern Italy followed in around 1494–99. Dürer’s interest in Italian art and classical subject matter complemented his engagement with his own Northern artistic traditions and workshop practices.


The exhibition has its origins in The Courtauld’s A Wise Virgin, a highly ambitious drawing in which the young Dürer sought to exceed Martin Schongauer, whose work he greatly admired. Examples of Schongauer’s prints will feature in the catalogue alongside exquisite drawings by other important figures who influenced Dürer. They include some of the masterpieces of early German art, such as the Master of the Drapery Studies’ silverpoint drawing A Pair of Lovers on loan from the Museum der Bildenden Kunsten in Leipzig. The reverse of A Wise Virgin preserves two remarkable studies of the artist’s own left leg and the exhibition will also consider the role that Dürer’s intense scrutiny of his own body played in the development of his ambitious figure style. This section of the exhibition will include the Self-portrait from Erlangen and three studies of Dürer‘s left hand from the Albertina in Vienna, amongst other masterpieces by the artist.

  • Stephanie Buck et al.

    240 pages, hardback

    260 x 216 mm, 200 colour illus.
    ISBN: 978 1 907372 51 3

  • Exhibition

    Accompanying a major exhibition at The Courtauld Gallery, London, 17 October 2013 – 12 January 2014.

  • In the press

    **** The Telegraph


    "At the heart of this small show are self-portraits that offer tantalising glimpses of a German artist whose genius was regrettably unfulfilled"—Brian Sewell, Evening Standard


    "An outstanding contribution to scholarship on Dürer." —HNA Reviews 

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