In April, I went to Italy to visit my daughter who is expecting her first baby this summer and used this opportunity to explore the magic museums and galleries of Milan to get inspiration for my planned works. One of the most fascinating exhibitions I had a chance to visit was the Durer and Renaissance Between Germany and Italy shown at the Palazzo Real.

Durer Exhibition

Cleverly curated by the Renaissance expert Bernard Aikema who currently also teaches the History of Modern Art at the University of Verona, the exhibition offered access to some of the most intriguing paintings, drawings and graphics by Durer and other contemporary artists such as Altdorfer, Cranach, da Vinci, Bellini and Mantegna. It was a great opportunity just to see these wonderful works, but also to compare and contrast the artistic solutions that Northern and Southern Renaissance artists took, and ponder on how they inspired one another with their differing visions.


Bernard Aikema


Visiting the exhibition, I couldn’t stop thinking about how Northern Renaissance artists considered it to be a must to go on a so-called Grand Tour to Italy as part of their training, which made me smile at the parallels of me being in Milan and deriving ideas and inspiration from the very same artworks the artists would have seen and admired on their tour. Durer himself travelled extensively from very early on in his professional career, and it was lovely to imagine that he could have stood where I was five centuries ago. It was a magic moment.



Albrecht Durer
Albrecht Durer, Selfportrait


At the same time, although I was in Italy and admired Italian Renaissance art in all its manifestations, I also felt encouraged by the fact that there is an increasing trend to recognize the historic and social significance, and the equal standing of the Northern Renaissance art, which used to be considered inferior to the Italian Renaissance art because it is so distinctly different. The Durer exhibition brings us one step closer to appreciating Northern Renaissance art on its own terms, without measuring it against the golden canon of the Italian Renaissance art.


Van Eyck's Madonna
Jan van Eyck, Madonna with Canon Jorisvan der Paele

Northern Renaissance gave us artists as diverse and talented as Jan van Eyck, Albrecht Durer and Hans Holbein, who shared with their Italian contemporaries their drive towards an increasing naturalism. However, it was a naturalism characterized by minute attention to detail, based on fascination with the natural world and the individual, rather than on the revival of ancient art. The sometimes breathtakingly realistic detail of the Northern Renaissance art is inextricably linked with advances in the oil painting technique in the 15th century. For more information on the Northern Renaissance art, please visit this excellent website: