Unequaled in his artistic and technical execution of woodcuts and engravings, 16th-century German artist Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528) revolutionized the art of printmaking. The exhibition Dürer’s Women: Image of Devotion and Desire features over fifty of his impressions from the Cleveland Museum of Art’s distinguished collection of Dürer’s prints and considers the artist’s multivalent depictions of women over the course of his career.
Exploring such themes as love, temptation, and power, this exhibition juxtaposes Dürer’s more traditional religious imagery of the Madonna and saints with his more complex and ambiguous secular depictions of women. Dürer’s representations of the Virgin showcase her devotion to God and the pure and unconditional love of a mother for her child. She is the ultimate virtuous woman and an exemplary role model for those of her gender. In contrast, the female protagonists of Dürer’s nonreligious prints illustrate the numerous perceived dangers associated with women during the early 16th century. Allegorical and mythological representations of goddesses such as Venus and Nemesis convey temptation, retribution, and power over men’s fates while images of abduction and violence, possible witchcraft, dangerous liaisons, and the understated authority of common women reveal Dürer’s engagement with a wide array of obscure and popular themes about feminine power—both beneficent and destructive—during this period.
Highlights of the exhibition include Dürer’s extensive Life of the Virgin woodcut series, the 1504 engraving of Adam and Eve, Nemesis (Large Fortune), and one of his most compelling engravings, Melencolia I. Dürer’s prints have not been the subject of an exhibition at the CMA since the early 1990s and the exhibition offers an exceptional opportunity to view, enjoy, and contemplate the creativity and intellectual complexity of this gifted artist.