The Courtauld Gallery has excelled recently in displaying an artist's early works and using this to examine the laying of the foundations of greatness, most notably in their Becoming Picasso exhibition. Now the attention turns to the German artist Albrecht Durer.
Durer was a Northern Renaissance painter but his most renowned works are his woodcuts, specifically his Apocalypse series. This exhibition looks back at his earlier days charting both his journey to becoming a talented artist and his key influences and peers.
The works of an early Durer are patchy as you would expect. Many of his studies are underwhelming. But there are some masterpieces such as a weary Joseph in his drawing of the holy family, or the brilliantly detailed pigs in a representation of the prodigal son.
Over half of the works are not by Durer but by his peers and predecessors. It is obvious to see that many of these artists were surpassed by Durer in his early years, the exception being Martin Schongauer whose intricate detail would have been an inspiration to a young Durer trying to find his style.
The exhibition won't feel complete until visitors venture further into the Courtauld to see some of Durer's later works such as the wonderfully surreal Nemesis as a goddess floats above a town, and the brilliant use of shading to portray a brooding angel in Melancholia. By showing both early and later Durer works the visitor can see the evolution of his style.
This may not be the most captivating exhibition but it is an interesting insight into Durer's development as an artist and the road he took to becoming one of Germany's greatest painters.
The Young Durer: Drawing the Figure is on at Courtauld Gallery, Strand, WC2R 0RN until 12 January.Tickets are £6 for adults and provide access to both the exhibition and the permanent collection.