The Nature of Lines: Enviromateriality and Ingenuity in Albrecht Dürer’s Material World

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Abstract

This essay outlines the extent to which Albrecht Dürer’s series of six intricately interlaced, symmetrical designs of knots reflect on the Nuremberg artist’s broader conceptual artistic understandings, especially of lines, and how such artistic thinking was anchored in the artist’s engagement with nature. Dürer’s Knots, this chapter shows, take an experimental approach to explore links between nature and art, matter and crafts, as well as making and the mind. The Knots establish a conversation between ‘enviromateriality’, making, and ingenuity. ‘Enviromateriality’ is a recently-coined word that aims to evoke the material qualities of natural matter. Understood together, these terms invited the artist’s reflections on the essence of life: growth, motion, and becoming. The Knots, just as much as Dürer’s more celebrated prints, positioned the artist as a visual entrepreneur at the very forefront of what was considered achievable in the new medium of print, for which Nuremberg was a pioneering hub. By knotting together the hands of the artist and the eyes of the beholder, the lines of the Knots provide a critical interface of mediation between the workings of natural materials and the artist’s working on matter—a point of contact used by Dürer to problematise the workings of the image in the Northern Renaissance.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAlbrecht Dürer’s Material World
EditorsEdward H. Wouk, Jennifer Spinks
Place of PublicationManchester
PublisherManchester University Press
Chapter5
Pages49-61
Number of pages13
ISBN (Print)9781526167606
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2023

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