Albrecht Dürer and the Epistolary Mode of Address

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9780226354750: Albrecht Dürer and the Epistolary Mode of Address

Art historians have long looked to letters to secure biographical details; clarify relationships between artists and patrons; and present artists as modern, self-aware individuals. This book takes a novel approach: focusing on Albrecht Dürer, Shira Brisman is the first to argue that the experience of writing, sending, and receiving letters shaped how he treated the work of art as an agent for communication.

In the early modern period, before the establishment of a reliable postal system, letters faced risks of interception and delay. During the Reformation, the printing press threatened to expose intimate exchanges and blur the line between public and private life. Exploring the complex travel patterns of sixteenth-century missives, Brisman explains how these issues of sending and receiving informed Dürer’s artistic practices. His success, she contends, was due in large part to his development of pictorial strategies—an epistolary mode of address—marked by a direct, intimate appeal to the viewer, an appeal that also acknowledged the distance and delay that defers the message before it can reach its recipient. As images, often in the form of prints, coursed through an open market, and artists lost direct control over the sale and reception of their work, Germany’s chief printmaker navigated the new terrain by creating in his images a balance between legibility and concealment, intimacy and public address.

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About the Author:

Shira Brisman is assistant professor of art history at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Review:

“Today it seems harder than ever to say anything refreshingly new about Albrecht Dürer and his epoch-making art. Yet Brisman has done just that, taking us inside a guiding principle of Renaissance art and culture that had, until now, been hiding in plain sight. An ancient form of connectivity thrust into a new environment around 1500, the letter stands here as a paradigmatic form of address, intimate yet profoundly social, a delivery mode for knowledge and desire suspended between the slow burn of Renaissance discovery and the fast pace of Reformation debate. Gleaming with intelligence on every page, and carried off with a rare verve, this book showcases what is to be gained when the materiality of communication combines with the social history of art.” (Mitchell B. Merback, Johns Hopkins University)

“This is a brilliant book. Brisman revives theoretical issues about modernity and its new, self-aware pictorial attentiveness to audiences, while remaining fully engaged with the historical context out of which Dürer emerges in his own pathbreaking ‘moment.’ She ultimately reveals the significance of producing and distributing print culture in the modern world, with Dürer as the initial—essentially as the initiating—courier.” (Larry Silver, University of Pennsylvania)

“Brisman’s epistolary approach opens up stimulating new ways of thinking about Dürer and his creations. She provides a framework for understanding how the artist adopts and then adapts contemporary modes of communication used by his literate peers. This is a highly original and extremely well-researched study.” (Jeffrey Chipps Smith, University of Texas at Austin)

"This intriguing and ambitious book seeks to make a major contribution to the field by proposing the existence and importance of an 'epistolary mode of artistic address,' which Dürer 'played a large role in advancing'."
  (Historians of Netherlandish Art)

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Book Description The University of Chicago Press, United States, 2017. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Art historians have long looked to letters to secure biographical details; clarify relationships between artists and patrons; and present artists as modern, self-aware individuals. This book takes a novel approach: focusing on Albrecht D rer, Shira Brisman is the first to argue that the experience of writing, sending, and receiving letters shaped how he treated the work of art as an agent for communication. In the early modern period, before the establishment of a reliable postal system, letters faced risks of interception and delay. During the Reformation, the printing press threatened to expose intimate exchanges and blur the line between public and private life. Exploring the complex travel patterns of sixteenth-century missives, Brisman explains how these issues of sending and receiving informed D rer s artistic practices. His success, she contends, was due in large part to his development of pictorial strategies an epistolary mode of address marked by a direct and intimate appeal to the viewer, an appeal that also acknowledges the distance and delay that defers the message before it can reach its recipient. As images, often in the form of prints, coursed through an open market, and artists lost direct control over the sale and reception of their work, Germany s chief printmaker navigated the new terrain by creating in his images a balance between legibility and concealment, intimacy and public address. Bookseller Inventory # AAZ9780226354750

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