Albrecht Altdorfer, Landscape with a Spruce and Two Willows, an etching


British Museum

British Museum

This signed print is one of nine etchings by Altdorfer (about 1480-1538). These etchings claim to be the first examples of landscape as a subject in its own right. Landscape had been depicted behind religious subjects, with growing prominence, for almost a century but Altdorfer is the first artist to omit figures completely. His use of the etching technique may have been prompted by Dürer's magnificent Landscape with a Cannon of 1518, but his depictions of mountains and forests dripping with moss are characteristic of his style. His invention of the new genre of landscape is characteristic of his flair for novelty.

Altdorfer had collaborated with Dürer on the emperor Maximilian's vast woodcut projects (such as the Triumphal Arch), but he lived one hundred kilometres away in Regensburg, on the Danube. There he achieved a very individual style of painting and printmaking. His interpretation of Christian subjects is highly personal, and his small engravings and woodcuts stretched the limits of their technique.

The lightly etched paper in this print makes it suitable for hand colouring, which survives on another etched landscape by Altdorfer. These prints appear to have been produced for collectors, whose taste for landscape drawings may have been stimulated by Dürer's watercolours.

Altdorfer's Landscape with a Footbridge (National Gallery, London), which is painted on vellum, introduced pure landscape to easel painting.

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  • Title: Albrecht Altdorfer, Landscape with a Spruce and Two Willows, an etching
  • Date Created: 1521/1522
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 116.00mm (top right corner made up); Width: 104.00mm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: etching
  • Subject: landscape
  • Registration number: 1923,1112.10
  • Producer: Print made by Altdorfer, Albrecht
  • Material: paper
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Purchased from Ramsden, C F J