Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) is the most famous artist from the German Renaissance, known throughout the world for his paintings, drawings, engravings and theoretical treatises on art, which professed a deep influence in the artists of the 16th century in his own country and in the Netherlands.
At the age of twenty-seven he produced his first great work, «The Apocalypse», using the woodcut technique. «Apocalypse» is a series of engravings made by the painter in 1498 on the biblical book of Revelation. It is considered a masterpiece in the field of engravings, whose original is preserved in the National Library of Spain under the catalogue number «Incunable no. 1».
This series of engravings was made upon his return from his first trip to Italy, when he was maturing as an artist. «The Apocalypse» shines out as one of the wonders of the whole German art. Its spirit is still Medieval but reveals his personality. Dürer’s book was the first to be published exclusively by an artist’s own and expenses. Prior to this work artists searched for a patron to finance their art. Such was Dürer’s confidence in his own work, that he himself financed the publication of this Apocalypse. Therefore, we are talking about the first case of artistic self-publishing.
The previous illuminated versions of the Apocalypse, generally had a different layout, with full-page illustrations distributed along the volume, small illustrations inserted in the text, or with rows of images explained using epigraphs. Dürer reserved the page recto for the engraving and arranged the text on the verso. Previous artists had relied on the colour to add a lively effect; Dürer didn’t need colour; he achieved images full of vigour using only black and white.