Albrecht Dürer was one of the great masters of sixteenth century art. His innovative paintings, engravings and woodcut book-illustrations were the conduit through which the ideas of the Italian renaissance passed to northern Europe.
Dürer was born in Nuremburg in 1471, the son of a goldsmith. He was first apprenticed to his father, and then to the painter, Michael Wolgemut. When his apprenticeship ended he travelled around Germany and then southern Europe, where he was influenced by Giovanni Bellini.
On his return, already a noted painter, he sought the company of academics and broadened the learned side of his work. In 1512, he took the position of Court Painter to the Emperor Maximillian, further confirming his reputation, and became famous for the brilliance of his work. He travelled extensively and caught a fever, probably in the swamps of Zeeland, but continued working tigerishly until his death.
He is most renowned for his woodcuts and engravings, and it was in the field of graphic work that he made the greatest impact. He mastered the art and through his tutorship vastly improved the European standards in this field. He was the first artist completely to produce his own book, the Apocalypse, where he acted as artist, printer and publisher.
By contrast, his paintings were few in number, but he brought a great advancement to the genre of landscape painting with his tremendously atmospheric images.