If we wish to reduce the difference between the art of Dürer and the art of Rembrandt to its most general formulation, we say that Dürer is a draughtsman and Rembrandt a painter. In speaking thus, we are aware of having gone beyond a personal judgment and characterised a difference of epoch. Occidental painting, which was draughtsmanly in the sixteenth century, developed especially on the painterly side in the seventeenth. Even if there is only one Rembrandt, a decisive readjustment of the eye took place everywhere, and whoever has any interest in clearing up his relation to the world of visible forms must first get to grips with these radically different modes of vision. The painterly mode is the later, and cannot be conceived without the earlier, but it is not absolutely superior. The linear style developed values which the painterly style no longer possessed and no longer wanted to possess. They are two conceptions of the world, differently orientated in taste and in their interest in the world, and yet each capable of giving a perfect picture of visible things.

Although in the phenomenon of linear style, line signifies only part of the matter, and the outline cannot be detached from the form it encloses, we can still use the popular definition and say for once as a beginning—linear style sees in lines, painterly in masses. Linear vision, therefore, means that the sense and beauty of things is first sought in the outline—interior forms have their outline too—that the eye is led along the boundaries and induced to feel along the edges, while seeing in masses takes place where the attention withdraws from the edges. — Heinrich Wölfflin


Woodcuts and engravings

Influence on Victorian art


Panofsky, Erwin. The Life and Art of Albrecht Dürer. 4th ed. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1955.

Ruskin, John. Works. Ed. E. T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn. The Library Edition. 39 vols. London: George Allen, 1903-12.

Wölfflin, Heinrich. The Principles of Art History: The Problem of the Development of Style in Later Art. (1915). Trans. M. D. Hottinger. 7th ed. New York: Dover Publications.

Last modified 10 March 2021