Albrecht Altdorfer
The Art History Archive - Christian Art

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Painter of Religious Myths

Biography by Brandi Leigh - March 2008.

Albrecht Altdorfer was a painter, engraver, architect and graphic artist. He is best known for his paintings of biblical and historical subjects, on backgrounds filled with imagination.

Altdorfer was born in Germany around1480 (the exact location and date are unknown). He officially became a citizen of Regensburg in 1505, where he spent most of his life; he owned three houses there, as well as several vineyards. Altdorfer also held seats in the Regensburg city council where he represented the city on official business.

There is no record of Altdorfer having any formal training, however it is believed his father was an artist. The first works of Altdorfer appreared in 1506, in the form of engravings and drawing, followed by several small paintings in 1507. His earliest works, were often depicting witches, wild men and strange apparitions.

Altdorfer is considered one of the most talented painters of German art as he had unique ways of light and colour to express emotions. Not only were his paintings incredible, but his engravings put him close to the “Little Masters” a group of German engravers that were noted for expert carvings on such small scales.

In 1510 Altdorfer traveled through the Alps, visiting France, Austria, Switzerland and possibly Italy. Then he returned to Ragensburg where he would spend the rest of his life painting and serving his city. It was here that he married in 1513 and purchased the first of his three homes in the city.

Altdorfer was appointed the city architect in 1526, he wasn’t an actual architect, but his knowledge and love of architecture saw him overseeing the building of both the cities slaughterhouse and wine cellars. His love of architecture shone through in several works including: Susanna at the Bath and the Allegory of Riches and Poverty.

Altdorfer was elected Mayor of Regensburg in 1528, but declined the position as he was commissioned to create the Battle of Alexander for Duke WIlohelm IV of Bavaria. He was leader of the Danube School in Southern Germany; during this time he continued to paint until his death in 1538. His body was buried in the church of the Augustine Cloister. His last will and testament included the inventory of his estate, twenty pages worth!

Artworks by Albrecht Altdorfer

Landscape with Satyr Family - 1507
Stigmatization of St. Francis - 1507
Rest on the Flight into Egypt - 1510
Saint George and the Dragon - 1510
Nativity - 1511-13
Christ on the Cross with Mary and John - 1515-16
Christ Resurrected - 1516
The Birth of the Saviour - 1525
The Crucifixion - c.1526.
Susanna at the Bath - 1526
Battle of Issus (The Battle of Alexander) - 1529
The Perfect Wife - 1525-30
Allegory - 1531
Portrait - Date Unknown