Painter, engraver and architect, Albrecht Altdorfer was the leading artist of the Danube School of German painting whose development of landscape painting contributed to its evolution as an independent genre. Besides landscapes, religious and mythological representations he was a pioneer of copperplate etching and produced works that ranked next to those of Albrecht Dürer.
Albrecht Altdorfer was likely to have been born around 1480 the son of and painter and miniaturist, Ulrich Altdorfer. He is first documented as living in the Bavarian city of Regensburg (a small town north of Regensburg) in 1505 where he was referred to as “the painter from Amberg".
His first signed drawings and engravings are documented as far back as 1506. Several of his earliest paintings that featured mythological creatures such as satyrs and centaurs can be seen in works like ‘The Satyr Family’ (1507), thought to be inspired by northern Italian Renaissance artists such as Andrea Mantegna.
Albrecht Altdorfer bought his first house in Regensburg in 1513 and continued to purchase other properties including some vineyards. From 1517 he served on the city council and remained involved for years in the internal and external affairs of the municipal government of Regensburg. It has been said that he was involved in expelling the Jewish people from the city and the destruction of the synagogue that was replaced by another church in 1519.
He was the first European artist to paint a 'pure' landscape that became his trademark. During this time his paintings evolved in size and color evident in ‘Danube Landscape near Regensburg’ (ca. 1521). During this time some of his most memorable religious works were created such as ‘Susannah at the Bath’ (1526) and ‘Birth of the Virgin’ (c.1521) portrayed the bond between the virgin Mary and Christ.
In 1526 Albrecht Altdorfer was appointed the city’s architect. Although no architectural work of his survived he was said to have constructed a municipal slaughterhouse and a building for wine storage.
Some influential patrons during this time included the emperor Maximilian and the Duke of Bavaria who commissioned him to paint the famous ‘The Battle of Alexander at Issus’ (1529). The opportunity to portray Alexander the great in his most triumphant battle was such a great challenge and honor, he renounced the opportunity to serve as mayor of Regensburg to be able to give it the justice it deserved.This very famous battle scene was monumental in size and presence. The painting, sixty-two inches high and forty-eight inches wide celebrates the victory of the young Alexander the Great over the Persian army of King Darius III in the battle of Issus that brought an end to Persian era of power. In 1532, his wife died leaving him a childless widower who died just six years later on February 12, 1538 in Regensburg.