Painter, copperplate engraver, commercial artist, draughtsman, etcher and art theorist
Albrecht Dürer was born on 21 May 1471 as the third of eighteen children of the goldsmith Albrecht Dürer and Barbara Holper. He was first trained as a goldsmith in his father's workshop, then as a painter under Michael Wolgemut in the years 1486 to 1489. A subsequent journeyman tour took him to the Upper Rhine, to Colmar, Basel, Strasbourg and other cities. Dürer had hoped to meet Martin Schongauer in Colmar, but Schongauer had died the previous year. In Basel, Dürer was employed in various workshops as a draughtsman and carver of woodcuts. In 1494 he returned to Nuremberg and married Agnes Frey, the daughter of a city councillor. He also began a lifelong friendship with humanist Willibald Pirckheimer. In the autumn of 1494 he set out on his first trip to Venice, where he became acquainted with the art of Andrea Mantegna, Antonio del Pollaiuolo and Giovanni Bellini. In 1495 he settled in his home town as a master, and in addition to painting devoted himself intensively to printmaking, the dissemination of which established his reputation as the most famous German artist of his time. From 1497 onwards, he used the well-known monogram 'AD'. In 1498 he published the woodcuts for the 'Apocalypse' and a few single sheets from the 'Great Passion'. At this time, he began his theoretical study of human proportions, which would occupy him for the rest of his life. In 1500 he painted his famous self-portrait (Munich, Alte Pinakothek). Inspired by Leonardo da Vinci, he also turned to the study of equine proportions. Around 1503 he took Hans Baldung Grien, Hans Süss von Kulmbach and Hans Schäufelein into his workshop. In the years 1505 to 1507, he visited Italy a second time. In Venice, on commission from the German merchants and the Fuggers, he painted the 'Feast of the Rosary'. Back in Nuremberg in 1508, Dürer began work on the altarpiece for the Frankfurt merchant Jacob Heller. In 1511 he published the book editions of the 'Great' and 'Small Passion', the 'Life of the Virgin', and the second edition of the 'Apocalypse'. In 1513-14 he produced his masterpiece engravings 'Rider (Knight, Death, and Devil)', 'Jerome in His Study', and 'Melencolia I'. His work for the emperor began with the visit to Nuremberg of Emperor Maximilian I. The huge graphic commissions the 'Triumphal Arch' (1515-1517) and the 'Triumphal Procession' (1516-1518) followed. In 1514/15 Dürer was in contact with Raphael. In 1520 he set out on a trip to the Netherlands, one that is remarkably well-documented in his travel journal and the 'Silverpoint Sketchbook'. His last major project in the realm of painting was the series of the 'Four Apostles' (Munich, Alte Pinakothek), which Dürer presented to the Nuremberg city council in 1526 and which represents a clear acceptance of Protestantism and the teachings of Martin Luther. From then until his death in 1528, his art-theoretical work predominated ('Four Books on Measurement', 1525; 'Treatise on Fortification', 1527; 'Four Books on Human Proportion', 1518, published posthumously).