Much like his contemporary, Leonardo da Vinci, Dürer was celebrated throughout his life for his innovative talents and prodigious body of work. His patronage included kings and queens. Andrea Mantegna and da Vinci were among his acquaintances, whether in person or by letters. Along with his portraits and self-portraits, Dürer is most known for his incredibly sophisticated woodcuts which revolutionized the medium in a way not seen again until M.C. Escher. Dürer’s vast portfolio also includes altar pieces, books, watercolors, books, pen-and-ink drawings and copper engravings. A native son of his beloved Nuremberg, he often travelled throughout Europe to study and connect with some of the old masters (and collect important commissions)… but he always returned.
During the 15th and 16th centuries, Nuremberg was one of the most artistic, inventive and commercial centers of the world. Great minds converged with an eye towards progress and a long, decorated history as a center of humanism, science, printing and mechanical invention. The Renaissance was an exciting time to be alive, particularly in Germany (then known as the Holy Roman Empire). Johann Gutenberg created the first printing press in the mid-1400s and the worlds of science and mechanical invention were truly flourishing.
A deeply religious man, Albrecht Dürer was also highly influenced by the new world around him. He painted one of the most recognizable images of Adam and Eve in 1507 and carved woodcuts in 1515 of the first maps of the stars of the Northern and Southern Hemisphere. Praying Hands, his iconic pen-and-ink sketch circa 1507, is one of his most revered works, along with his distinctive signature on all his pieces. His books were engraved with pages of pure art in an era where images were not readily available in magazines and computers.