by Albrecht DÜRER
During his apprenticeship Dürer studied the technique of woodcuts. Woodcut illustrations from Michael Wolgemut's workshop were at the time some of the best in terms of technique that were available on the European market. The intensive study of woodcut techniques and what were, for the time, exceptionally high technical standards in the Wolgemut workshop were important prerequisites for Dürer's inspired potential for development in this field, and for his methodical action in later years when he started to use printed graphics to a broadly commercial extent.
In the case of woodcuts, Dürer more often than not simply provided sketches which were then cut into the wood block by skilled artisans. These woodcuts are simple, direct, outspoken and emotional, marked by an economy of line.
In 1496 Dürer started work on 12 woodcuts on the death of Christ, known as The Large Passion, a project that was to take a further 15 years to complete. However, the greatest printmaking achievement of his early years was The Apocalypse, a set of 15 woodcuts on the revelations of St John. Telling the story of the end of the world and the coming of the Kingdom of God, this series of large prints displays great imagination and power.
In subsequent years he devoted much of his time to prints, bringing to fruition several series which he had started years earlier. In 1511 he completed the 20 woodcuts of The Life of the Virgin and the 12 major woodcuts of The Large Passion, both of which were published in book form. Between 1509 and 1511 he produced the 37 woodcuts of The Small Passion.