Dürer's Beginnings in Books


Demonstrating precocious talent as a draughtsman, young Dürer did not wish to take on his father’s profession as a goldsmith but wanted to become
a painter and printmaker. His father reluctantly allowed the fifteen-year-old to begin a three-year apprenticeship with Michael Wolgemut, Nuremberg’s leading artist, in 1486. Upon the completion of his training in 1489, Dürer embarked upon his Wanderjahre, an artist’s customary years of travel in search of employment as an assistant in foreign workshops. Beyond a brief stay in Colmar, Dürer’s itinerary is not recorded, but one signed woodcut made in Basel in 1492 and several unsigned woodcuts published there and in Freiburg im Breisgau in 1493 reflect his promising beginnings in book illustration. These interactions with publishers laid the foundation for Dürer to establish himself as Germany’s leading book illustrator.