Revolutionizing the medium of printmaking and elevating it to the level of an independent art form by expanding its tonal and dramatic range, and providing the imagery with a new conceptual foundation, the German painter, printmaker and theorist, Albrecht Dürer, was regarded as the greatest German Renaissance artist, whose work was admired and influential throughout the Europe.
A supremely gifted and versatile artist, Dürer was born on May 21, 1471, in the Franconian city of Nuremberg. His first training was as a goldsmith in his father's shop. By the age of 13, Dürer manifested signs of a skilled painter as seen from a self portrait which he painted in 1484. In 1486, he apprenticed with the local painter Michael Wolgemut, where he would remain for almost four years.
In April of 1490, Dürer departed Nuremberg and travelled to Netherlands, Cologne, and parts of Austria. In the summer of 1492 he arrived at Colmar, and from there he went to Basel and then to Strasbourg. After returning to Nuremberg in late May of 1494, Dürer married Agnes Frey on July 7.
In August of 1494, Dürer traveled to Italy, where he remained until 1495. He became acquainted with artists such as Gentile and Giovanni Bellini and absorbed the works of Andrea Mantegna, Antonio Pollaiuolo, and Lorernzo di Credi.
After his return, Dürer immediately became successful receiving commissions for painting from Frederick the Wise, Elector of Saxony. By the age of thirty, Dürer had completed or begun three of his most famous series of woodcuts on religious subjects, “The Apocalypse” (1498), the “Large Woodcut Passion” cycle (ca. 1497-1500), and the “Life of the Virgin” (began 1500). He went on to produce engraving such as “Adam and Eve” (1504) and “Master Engravings” featuring “Knight, Death, and the Devil” (1513), “Saint Jerome in His Study” (1514), and “Melancholia I” (1514).
From 1505 to 1507, Dürer again visited Italy absorbing the classical heritage and theoretical writings of the region. He developed a new interest in the human form, as demonstrated by his nude and antique studies. He wrote “Four Books of Human Proportion”, only the first of which was published during his lifetime. He also wrote an introductory manual of geometric theory for students “Underweysung der Messung” (1525), which include the scientific treatment of perspective by a Northern European artist.
Dürer attracted the attention of the Emperor Maximilian I in 1512, from whom he received several commissions. He also worked for the Emperor's successor Charles V, for whom Dürer designed and helped execute a range of artistic projects.
In his last years, Dürer produced several painted and engraved portraits, but the major work is the “Four Apostles” (1526), that was presented to the city council in Nuremberg. While visiting Zeeland in 1521, Dürer contracted a malarial infection and as a result of this infection Dürer died on April 6, 1528, and buried in the Johannisfriedhof cemetery.