by Albrecht DÜRER

Much of Dürer's early work was as a printmaker, designing woodcuts and making engravings. For woodcuts, the artist would first draw his design on a block of wood, marking the areas that were to be cut away and appear white in the prints. The cutting was done by another craftsman and the block was then inked and printed. Engraving, the other main technique, worked on the reverse principle. The lines removed from the copper plate with a cutter would appear black in the prints. The plate was engraved by the artist himself, a technique which would have been familiar to Dürer from. his time spent as a goldsmith in his father's workshop. The engraved plate was then inked and wiped, leaving the ink in the grooves, and it was ready for printing.

Dürer's early prints were strongly influenced by the work of two earlier German printmakers. Martin Schongauer and the Master of the Housebook. Later the three main specialities of Dürer's workshop were paintings, prints, and to a lesser extent designs for stained glass. Dürer found that panel paintings were not very profitable and he devoted much of his time to prints. Dürer also experimented with other printmaking techniques, including drypoint which had been used by the Master of the Housebook, as well as etching on iron plates.

Dürer's earliest signed print, and possibly the first done in his own workshop, is an engraving of The Holy Family with a Dragonfly, inscribed with an early form of his AD monogram and probably dating from 1494. Dürer's greatest achievement in printmaking were the three engravings of 1513-14, regarded as his masterpieces. Knight, Death and the Devil, also known as The Rider, St Jerome in his Study, and Melencolia I. The depiction of the horse had been preceded since 1500 by numerous studies on the ideal proportions of the horse, including the famous copper engravings of the Small Horse and the Large Horse.

Summary of graphic works by Albrecht Dürer
drawings | woodcuts | engravings
etchings | drypoints | watercolours |