Albrecht Dürer represents another side of art in sixteenth-century Germany, although some of his work, particularly
the Apocalypse, can also be extremely expressive. The Apocalypse is a series of woodcut prints that illustrates an
edition of the book of Revelation, which predicts events at the end of the world. The woodcut technique involves
cutting away the areas around lines drawn on a block of wood. The raised lines are then inked and printed. Although
it is difficult to get fine detail in a woodcut, the block can be used to make hundreds or even thousands of impressions
before it begins to wear down.
. Dürer, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, 1498, woodcut
Dürer was an astute businessman, and he probably created the series of prints in 1498 to capitalize on fears that
the world would end in 1500. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is the best-known woodcut from the series.
The riders—Pestilence, War, Famine, and Death—trample everyone in their path, including nobles and clergymen.
The crowded composition and bold lines help to convey the terror of the scene. Woodcuts had been an inexpensive
way of making images since the middle of the fifteenth century, but Dürer was one of the first to raise this popular
technique to the level of fine art.
Another print, the engraved Adam and Eve shows a different side of Dürer’s personality. Engravings are made by
incising lines in copper plates. The lines are much finer than in woodcuts, and thus, fewer prints can be made from
a plate before it begins to wear down. As a result, Renaissance engravings were more expensive than woodcuts.
With this in mind, artists made engravings that appealed to the more sophisticated collector.
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