Here we have Durer!

One of Durer’s many self-portraits, when he was 29 years old. The man loved his long golden hair and his fancy clothes.

One of the interesting things about Durer is the idea of printmaking itself.

Prior to the printing press and the proliferation of books, art was EXCEEDINGLY expensive. It was, quite literally, a luxury product. Really, only a few people could own it, and art was purchased either by the wealthy for their homes, or by groups of people for public display. This is why so much art from the Ancient World through to the Renaissance is either in wealthy homes, temples and churches, or public venues like town halls, guild halls, or places where the group of people who purchased the art can see and show the art to others.

Each painting had to be individually drawn on panels which were individually prepped, and each had to be individually painted. Even with a studio of assistants and apprentices doing some of the less-skilled labor like paint-making, panel-prepping, drawing, storing, under-painting, and cleanup, each painting would take months, and really couldn’t be sped up easily. Even the “lower” quality paintings each studio offered (paintings which were based on a pre-set pattern and worked on by the apprentices and assistants, never the master) would be financially out of reach for most people.

The Field Hare, a watercolor, by Durer. Professional painters DID use watercolor, but usually for color sketches and on-site studies for a ‘finished’ painting (usually oil paint) later. While Durer did use watercolors for studies, this particular image is monogrammed (see his “AD”) and dated, which indicates to scholars that Durer likely viewed this piece as a finished work in its own right.

Printmaking changes this completely. Suddenly, an artist can create a single work–the print plate–and create DOZENS of nearly identical works in a matter of minutes.

When I took printmaking classes in college, it could take me a couple of weeks to produce each print plate, but only a few hours to create enough pieces to satisfy my professor’s assigned numbers in the print run. I’m not a professional printer, either artistic or everyday (I’ll be honest, I wasn’t very good at handling the massive manual print machine!) but even that showed me how easily and quickly a professional printer could churn out dozens to hundreds of identical copies of a plate within a day or two. And each print is considered, then and now, an original work of art in its own right.

Durer’s Resurrection of Christ, an engraving print, where the lines are engraved or scratched into a metal plate and the ink is pressed into the lines.

And just like that, art came to the masses. For a few dollars, you too could purchase and hang art on your walls, just like the wealthy. Durer also painted in watercolors and oils, and traveled Europe to train in different schools, but his prints were the thing that sealed his reputation, in part because so many people could purchase the latest Durer print, even if they couldn’t afford a Durer painting.

This engraving of a rhino is one of the most well-known among Durer’s works, yet he never saw this (or any!) rhino in real life. The story behind the first rhino seen in Europe in 1,200 years is equally fascinating, and I”m working on that, but Durer drew this based on one sketch and a written description! It became so well known, it was still in zoology textbooks in the 19th century, 300 years later!
By Albrecht Dürer – This file was donated to Wikimedia Commons as part of a project by the National Gallery of Art., Public Domain,

So enjoy Durer, and look through more of his works, including his luminous paintings. And if you happen to ever pass through Nuremberg, check out his home, now a historic monument and museum.

Albrecht Durer’s Home in Nuremberg
By Monika Wiedemann (talk · contribs) – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,