Scholars reckon that Albrecht Dürer made this drawing in black and white ink on dark green paper in 1503, at the equivalent of middle age during the Renaissance in Nuremberg. It is the first known nude self-portrait.
Side-stepping questions of how it was accomplished, Dürer appears awkward, perhaps disturbed, almost coy, combined with a questioning scrutiny, yet with the direct eye contact with the viewer that is often the most engaging feature of self-portraits. There is a sense of emerging from the material: the darkness suggests a door behind – perhaps he is emerging from the closet. There is certainly an impression of liminal space.
His left arm ( which appears in the drawing as his right, due to the lateral inversion), is reaching forward presumably towards the paper whilst holding the pen/brush in his left hand. We are perhaps reminded of “selfies” which show the arm extending forward holding the smart-phone taking the photograph. His right arm, suggested only by a single line, extends out to the side, elbow tucked in, presumably holding the ink container in his right hand.
Perhaps I am at the same stage of life as Dürer. Like many men of my age, my physical state is an issue for me. My physique has always been part of the bedrock of my psyche, my self-esteem. I have been terrified to bare all and scrutinise what I find and record it.
Following on from the project Now, who am I? I am confronting myself through different media, in this case adopting the composition of Dürer’s nude self-portrait. It gives the chance to investigate how the media, mark making and aesthetic expresses aspects of my response to myself.
In part also I am acknowledging those of my generation who are not here. Historians noted that there was an outbreak of the plague in Nuremberg in 1503. Perhaps that also triggered Dürer to record himself.