Albrecht Dürer is regarded as the greatest German Renaissance painter and printmaker. He began his career in the Imperial Free City of Nuremberg with his father, a Hungarian goldsmith who had immigrated to Germany in 1455. Although the inexhaustible richness of his imagination is manifest in a variety of forms, his reputation rests chiefly on his activities as a printmaker, as can be seen in his landmark engraving “Adam and Eve” from 1504.
His woodcuts and engravings made him famous across Europe and he is still considered to be the greatest printmaker of all time. As a testament to the magnitude of these works, permanent collections of Dürer’s works are housed at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; the Hermitage, St. Petersburg; the British Museum, London; the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris; the Louvre, Paris; and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Although sacred subjects predominate Dürer’s woodcuts, many other motifs are treated, for example, portraits of prominent men of the age, book illustrations (secular and religious), coats of arms, the celestial and terrestrial globes, animals, mythological and historical themes, etc.
Dürer’s ninety-six engravings, six etchings, and three drypoints are counted among the finest and best-known works. By the very nature of the medium, each fine line of an engraving is controlled by the artist and is dependent upon the pressure of the burin in his hand. In the engravings, Dürer was, therefore, able to achieve an unprecedented intricacy of detail, subtlety of line, and three-dimensionality.