• Landscape with Path

Landscape with Path

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Landscape with Path (Landscape with Bridge)
Artist: Albrecht Altdorfer
Oil painting on parchment applied to panel; Size: 42.1x35.1cm; National Gallery, London.

No human figure appears in this landscape painting from c. 1516: the only signs of man's work are a footbridge, a small church in the distance and a construction, perhaps an abandoned castle. Altdorfer's sources of inspiration were close to the courtly literature of the circles of Emperor Maximilian I.

The painter's Danubian landscapes are not depicted topographically and his trees often have no equivalent in nature, but are hybrids of different species that assume disturbing forms. The wilderness is charged with natural energy; it is a place suited to bringing out the value of the hero, the isolated individual, remote from the civilized community. And these were the years in which Luther preached a personal religion in opposition to the superstition of the masses: religion as chivalrous romance. But they were also the years of a reawakening, around the throne of Maximilian I, of German pride and national consciousness, in hostile opposition to the Italian classical tradition. The sense of patriotism was fueled by the rediscovery, in the middle of the 15th century, of Germania, a text written by the Roman historian Tacitus sometime between the 1st and 2nd century Al) and published in Nuremberg in 1473, with its celebration of the Germans as an uncorrupted people in contrast to the decadence of Rome. The tendency toward unity and a sense of national identity encouraged the study not just of German history, but also its geography, with the description of cities, river and natural resources. Altdorfer became the painter of the Germanic forest, the land of the courageous peoples celebrated by Tacitus.

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