Five Centuries of Melancholia

2014 marks the 500th anniversary of Albrecht Dürer’s engraving Melencolia I. To celebrate this occasion, Andrea Bubenik has curated an exhibition entitled Five Centuries of Melancholia, a visual exploration of five centuries of melancholy in art that takes its cue from Dürer’s engraving.

Five Centuries of Melancholia

Image: Albrecht Dürer, Melencolia I, 1514. Engraving on paper, 23.8 x 18.6 cm.

The year 2014 marks the 500th anniversary of Albrecht Dürer’s engraving Melencolia I. To commemorate this occasion, the UQ Art Museum, in collaboration with the ARC Centre for the History of Emotions, is hosting Five Centuries of Melancholia. Taking its cue from Durer’s engraving, the exhibition and the accompanying catalogue present a visual exploration of five centuries of melancholy in art. Perhaps more so than any other emotion, melancholy has become associated with art-making and introversion, an idea to which Dürer’s engraving contributed immeasurably. From the Renaissance onward, melancholy has been invoked as a condition, perspective, and/or mood; melancholy has inhabited figures, objects and landscapes.

Curated by CHE Associate Investigator Andrea Bubenik of The University of Queensland, the exhibition brings Dürer’s engraving together with works by a diverse range of subsequent artists, to the end of considering the many guises of melancholy, from Dürer to today. Taking another cue from Dürer, who was and continues to be celebrated as a master printmaker and draughtsman, the exhibition features especially drawings, prints and photographs - small scale works that force close contemplation and scrutiny. Understanding the ways historical images stake their claims in the present is an essential task for art historians and art galleries, and this exhibition explores the iconic status and visual reception of Melencolia I, as well as the idea of melancholy in and of itself.