Monday 25 March 2013

The influence of Durer on early Warhammer art

This weekend I went to see an exhibition of Renaissance art at the Queen's Gallery. Specifically "The Northern Renaissance, Dürer to Holbein".

St Eustace, by Dürer

As I was ambling through the collection, chatting with companion and perusing each piece in turn, I realised that a lot of the work was rather familiar in its look. Fortunately, I habitually scan read from the corner of my eye the explanatory notes art galleries and museums put out in their effort to make me look devastatingly clever.

It became apparent that the work that was causing me wonder if I'd taken a wrong turn and ended up at a Warhammer World art exhibition was instead the work of one Albrecht Dürer. Having returned home and used Wikipedia to look such things up (it never lies!), both John Blanche and Ian Miller cite Dürer as one of their influences.

What I found fascinating was how obvious the link was, not looking at Wikipedia at the time, that there was a link.

Take the St Eustace picture earlier in the blog. This is one of the more tenuous links, but if you look at the castle in the background, then, say, one of the early WHFRP illustrations for the Enemy Within campaign, you see that the castle designs are very similar indeed.

Death on the Reik, by Ian Miller
Some of the other illustrations continue the pattern. Dürer's Sea Monster has similar castles in the background, but also wouldn't have looked out of place in the Mighty Empires rulebook or a Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay supplement.

Sea Monster, by Dürer

More background castles show up in John Blanche's Nuln, which was the front cover for The Enemy Within.

Nuln, by John Blanche
 Then you come across a few examples of the more fantastical Renaissance stuff like the picture below. The devil and death would be at home in a Realm of Chaos illustration.

Knight, Death and the Devil, by Dürer
 The influence doesn't end with the early stuff. Look at some of the detail on this woodcut.

Large Triumphal Carriage, by Dürer
The style should really look familiar... If you go and look at the Empire War Altar, you'll soon see some striking similarities in the ornate design, use of Latin mottos and similar.

All in all, I found making the comparisons interesting. The exhibition was excellent and well worth the time and money if you are so inclined. This wasn't the only idea the exhibition gave me, which may lead to a further post in the future.


  1. I love this sort of post. Great observation and comparison.

    You have gain a new follower.

    1. Thank you!

      My blog does meander from topic to topic quite a bit, so hopefully there will be enough to keep your interest.

  2. Great post! Some awesome inspiration there.

    Might be time for a trip to the art gallery ;)