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CCU Atheneum:
"Salome with the Head of St. John the Baptist," woodcut on paper, 1511.

'Discovering the Dürer Cypher' opens at the Bryan Gallery

by Jim Arendt
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“Discovering the Durer Cypher” explores the passions that ignite artists, collectors and scholars to pursue the hidden secrets of one of the great heroes of the Northern Renaissance, Albrecht Durer. This exhibition comprises more than 40 prints gathered together by collector Elizabeth Maxwell-Garner. Inspired by her love of the artist, she amassed this outstanding collection to aid her research into why the artist produced his astonishingly unusual prints and to understand the mind of one of art’s great geniuses.

Durer (1471-1528), the most influential and important artist of the Northern Renaissance, created many iconic images treasured in the history of art. Widely admired as an artist and polymath in his own time, he continues to be the focus of scholarly speculation and interpretation into the present day. The complex imagery and symbolism of his famous prints have puzzled viewers and scholars alike and have spawned volumes of written analysis. What hidden mysteries could attract such speculation?

This is a once in a lifetime opportunity see so many works by a great master in one place. At the gallery, we strive to present thought-provoking exhibitions that challenge our assumptions. “Discovering the Durer Cypher” does just that: It brings the audience into contact with one of the greatest artists of all time and asks us to reevaluate all of our expectations about him. This collection was assembled to investigate the inner working of Durer himself: What motivated him to create such bizarre images? For whom were they intended? How have they been interpreted or misinterpreted over the centuries. I believe Elizabeth Maxwell-Garner brings a fresh and exciting perspective to these mysteries with her investigation.

Maxwell-Garner’s research has led her to a series of startling conclusions not found in previous scholarly interpretations of Durer prints. Of special note are her investigations into the connections between Durer’s prints and possible use of steganography, a form of concealed writing executed in such a manner that only the author and intended recipients are aware of its existence.

Maxwell-Garner will deliver a public lecture on the campus of Coastal Carolina University on Thursday, Oct. 11, at 3 p.m. in the Johnson Auditorium. An opening reception will follow from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. in the gallery in the Edwards College of Humanities and Fine Art.

Maxwell- Garner’s appearance is co-sponsored by the Humanities Council of South Carolina and the Coastal Education Foundation. Call 843-349-6409 or visit for more information.

Jim Arendt is director of the Rebecca Randall Bryan Art Gallery.


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