- Neil Cooper
- 21 July 2011
This article is from 2011.
Tribute to the German woodcut and engravings master Albrecht Durer
German handball star Pascal Hens gazes out from a black-and-white poster, his torso naked, gaze serious, his pose one of self-deification. This is enhanced further by a tattoo on his stomach of two disembodied hands clasped together as if in prayer. It’s an image made familiar by its own iconic status, which, in the context of the poster, borders on a state of heroic kitsch. Further down the corridor in a glass case sits a green-moulded plastic hare taken from an installation that filled a Nuremburg square with 7,000 of the little critters. Again, the familiar 21st-century apparel of this piece points to both parody and homage.
Both works, in fact, are two of the most recent examples that take from 16th century German maestro of woodcuts and engravings, Albrecht Dürer. Hens’ buff-bellied tattoo is inspired by Dürer’s ‘Study of Praying Hands’, while the electric green hare looks to one of Dürer’s most vivid images for inspiration. This isn’t some recent postmodern appropriation, mind, but, as this striking selection of Dürer’s own explicitly monochrome works set besides some of his contemporaries and acolytes proves, Dürer was in fact one of the earliest examples of art star, whose fan-boy copyists manufactured their own output in his image.
The opening woodcut in this laterally-inspired show, ‘The Circumcision’, has no less than three homages by Dürer’s contemporaries, while 19th century Scottish artist William Bell Scott depicts the man himself looking out over Nuremberg in the nearest thing found here to a pin-up. Beyond the romanticised image, Dürer’s biblical works for the tellingly entitled ‘The Apocalypse’ are knee-deep in an ecclesiastical and transcendental melodrama that holds an eternal appeal for serious young men everywhere, whatever century they’re in.
National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, until Tue 11 Oct.