The first independent or ‘pure’ landscapes in Western art were produced in southern Germany in the first decades of the sixteenth century. They were painted, drawn and etched by Albrecht Altdorfer of Regensburg and his only slightly less flamboyant contemporary Wolf Huber of Passau. These radical experiments in landscape appeared without advance notice and disappeared from view almost as suddenly.
Altdorfer converted outdoor settings into a theatre for stylish draughtsmanship and extravagant colour effects. At the same time, his landscapes offered a densely textured interpretation of that quintessentially German locus, the forest interior. In this revealing study, now available in a revised and expanded second edition, Christopher S. Wood shows how Altdorfer prised landscape out of its subsidiary role as setting and background for narrative history painting and devotional works, and gave it a new, independent life of its own.
‘Christopher Wood’s book will immediately be recognized as a landmark in the art history of Northern Renaissance. An astonishing tour de force of scholarship, it is also written with exhilarating verve and great intellectual power. It offers a wholly persuasive historical account of the emergence of a new genre, but does so without ever robbing the paintings of their formal complexity. Wood’s reading of Altdorfer’s works represents some the most brilliantly sustained accounts of the origins of landscape to have appeared in many years.’ – Simon Schama
‘A study that is bound to become a standard work.’ – Independent on Sunday
‘The well chosen illustrations are a revelation.’ – The Times
‘sumptious’ – Daily Telegraph
‘Excellent illustrations . . . [and] detailed exuberant comments leave the reader in no doubt about Altdorfer’s brilliance and originality.’ – Anthony Grafton, The New York Review of Books
‘This is an important book that will have a great and positive influence on the study of Northern art, and on the understanding of landscape painting generally.’ – Joseph Leo Koerner
Christopher S. Wood is Professor in the Department of History of Art, Yale University.