Martin Schongauer

Datesabout 1450/1453 - 1491
BornColmar (probably), Germany
DiedBreisach, Germany

Today Martin Schongauer is famed for his graphic arts, but in his own day, he was celebrated for his painting. He was "so excellent an artist that his paintings were carried to Italy, Spain, France, and England, and other parts of the world," enthused one sixteenth-century report. Little is known of Schongauer's life, but his work shows so much influence of Rogier van der Weyden that Giorgio Vasari's biography of Schongauer referred to him as fiammingo (Flemish or Dutch). Schongauer's family was prominent in the Alsatian city of Colmar, where his father headed a goldsmith workshop. Schongauer and his Rhine Valley contemporaries who perfected the art of engraving learned the technique from goldsmiths. Schongauer's painstaking engraving technique, combined with his understanding of draftsmanship and painter's eye, exploited the entire range of contrasts and textures, modeling and shading, that the media could achieve. There are 115 engravings by Schongauer, many of which became important sources for artists throughout Europe. Albrecht Dürer, a great admirer of Schongauer's work, traveled to Colmar in 1492 during his Wanderjahre as a young artist. He had planned to enter Schongauer's workshop but discovered upon his arrival that the great master had recently died.