Albrecht Altdorfer (German, ca. 1480–1538)
Etching printed from iron
4 3/4 x 6 1/4 in. (11 x 16 cm)
Purchase, Gift of Halston, by exchange, The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, and Pfeiffer Fund, 1993 (1993.1097)
The leading member of the Danube school, Albrecht Altdorfer is renowned for his expressive treatment of nature and for introducing landscape as an independent theme. The artist's rare and beautiful landscape etchings are not only the first pure landscape prints, but among the earliest pure landscapes in any medium. They are also some of the very earliest prints produced in the medium of etching. The remarkable spontaneity and freedom of draftsmanship in this etching echoes that of the artist's numerous landscape drawings, and must have been produced for the same limited audience of connoisseurs who prized the drawings. Altdorfer seems to have printed only a few impressions of each of the nine landscapes he etchedor at least very few survive.
The directness of the etching medium had great appeal to landscapists and was taken up with enthusiasm in the next century by the Dutch artists who founded a new school of landscape art, producing recognizable portraits of their native land in both prints and paintings.