Is Jonathan Jones right about The Young Dürer?

Published in The Courtauldian, Issue 5, October -November 2013, London


There is nothing wrong in expressing criticism as long as it shows a clear and deep understanding of the subject matter. This is however not visible in Jonathan Jones’ review of the Young Dürer exhibition which is currently shown at the Courtauld Gallery.

Apart from criticising the Courtauld Institute for its profound occupation with Dürer’s work, as well as for choosing to focus on the four years the artist spent in Italy, there is nothing to take away about the exhibition per se from his review. He hardly talks about what the artist did in Italy, and neither does he discuss how this séjour has influenced Dürer’s later work.

Italy has always been a major source for artist’s inspiration, as it was, for example, for the Northern artist Peter Paul Rubens a century later. Studying Italian art has often changed an artist’s perception of what art is and what it can do to the viewer. Nevertheless, Jones does not mention this striking fact to the reader.

Anyhow, Jones makes it clear that he does not like Dürer’s work A Wise Virgin. But honestly, who cares? What does the beginning of his review “this is the worst exhibition I’ve ever seen”, followed by “we get a lot of prints…” further down the review illustrate?

It tells us nothing but that his “i” art criticism is only subjective and does not provide any information about Dürer’s early years. In this way, Jones’ review on the exhibition only serves as way to transmit his personal liking for art, as well as his rejection of a scholarly approach.


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