Friday, August 01, 2008

Have You Met the High Dorfer?

I like to bring my recent discoveries to the Last House and share them around. I was reading a back issue of the New York Review of Books just now and the article (can’t think what it was about now) was illustrated by this amazing painting of St. George and the Dragon. Despite the title, the main subject seems to be this intense and overwhelming green forest. It was painted by an artist named Albrecht Altdorfer in 1510. The Wikimedia image above doesn't look nearly as vibrant as the NYRB version but it was the best I can do until I get to Munich to get my own photo. (And let's not hold our breath for that). This painting evoked for me the feeling that my own walks through the Vermont forests bring. (No dragons or knights here but I have been worried a lot lately about bears and even catamounts - and it is so very Green here right now).

I suppose Albrecht Altdorfer is someone I should have heard of by now. Hmm. I wonder how that name translates. I don’t know German but I know “Alt” means “high”; [N.B. - Click on the comments below to find out how I was wrong about this translation. Don't believe everything you read on the internet.] so, “high dorfer”… I should be able to remember that.

Anyway, in about 30 seconds online I learned that he was born in 1480 in Germany near a Regensberg and that he was a contemporary of that more famous “Albrecht,” Albrecht Durer. I also learned that the High Dorfer is regarded as a pioneer of landscape in art. I guess we can all see why.

And look at this amazing image – like a movie poster from a super-heated medieval (OK, early northern Renaissance) imagination.

The Battle of Alexander by Albrecht Altdorfer (1529) Wood, 158,4 x 120,3 cm Alte Pinakothek, Munich