About the artist

Black and white portrait of a man leaning on a desk

'Half-Length Portrait of Dürer', 1645 by Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-1677)

Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) was the first great artist to achieve fame through prints. His meticulous use of detail, outstanding technique and clever use of perspective and the human figure made his work extremely popular. Dürer's home city Nuremberg and his family had a significant influence on his success. Nuremberg was a prosperous city on the trade route between Italy and Northern Europe and a centre of Renaissance learning.

Dürer's father was a goldsmith and his godfather ran an important publishing house which traded with Venice. In this environment, Dürer witnessed the production of prints for books and learnt about artistic developments in Italy.

Dürer established his own workshop in Nuremberg in 1495 after his first journey to Italy. Italian influence is evident in his early engravings. By 1505, when Dürer went again to Italy, he had made many of the woodcuts that make up his great Biblical series, as well as engraved masterpieces such as the 'Prodigal Son', 'St Eustace' and 'Adam and Eve' that in turn made a dramatic impact on Italian art.

Dürer is one of the best documented artists of the Renaissance. Letters, a journal and a family chronicle tell us about his artistic relationship with Italy. In 1568 the first art historian Giorgio Vasari also described the creative relationship between Dürer and the Italian artist Raphael and how vital prints were for artists as sources of inspiration and as channels of communication with other European art centres.