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Albrecht Dürer

Albrecht Dürer, Left Wing of a Blue Roller, ca. 1500–12, watercolor and gouache on vellum, 7 3/4 x 7 7/8".

IN HIS TREATISE on human proportions, published in the year of his death, 1528, Albrecht Dürer (born 1471) wrote that “one man may sketch something with his pen on half a sheet of paper in one day . . . and it turns out to be better and more artistic than another’s great work at which its author labors with the utmost diligence for a whole year. And this gift is miraculous.” With this “strange speech,” which “only powerful artists will be able to understand,” Dürer defined his own activity no longer as the artisanal, labor-intensive crafting of splendid objects, but rather as the ongoing inscription of his own perceptions and inventions. The content of art, according to Dürer, is the consciousness of its creator. The artwork has its authority on loan from the artist. And while the sovereignty of the singular artist has been challenged countless times in the intervening five hundred

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