John Williams at the NYT:
As a titan of the Renaissance, Dürer needs no puffing up, but Hoare doesn’t stint on the claims: “No one painted dirt before Dürer,” is a particularly arresting example. He created “the first self-portrait of an artist painted for its own sake.” In a later self-portrait, he is “where the modern world begins. That stare, that self, that star.” He became “the first genuinely international artist,” and his engraving “Melencolia I” is “the most analyzed object in the history of art,” a great cipher of a piece that at less than 10 by 8 inches created “a new existential state.”
The breadth of the artist’s work made room for the most granular natural detail and the most hallucinatory fantasy. He was working at a time when reality was asserting itself in new ways, not long before Copernicus and Galileo astonished but also disillusioned us.