Urs Graf

  • about 1485 - 1527
  • Artist
  • Swiss

Urs Graf regularly abandoned family and workshop for military campaigns-- a mercenary in search of adventure and booty. Graf primarily depicted the political climate, social conditions, and erotic themes. He often depicted violence, such as Two Prostitutes Beating a Monk, and chronicled brutish battlefield life alongside majestic Alpine landscapes. However, he sometimes gave his pictures an air of fantasy by using lively, curling strokes. By signing and dating his drawings, Graf was instrumental in raising drawing's status to an independent work of art.

First trained by his goldsmith father, Graf apprenticed in goldsmithing in Zurich. After designing book illustrations and working as a stained-glass painter's assistant, in 1512 he entered the goldsmiths' guild and purchased citizenship in Basel, where he was jailed repeatedly for wife-beating and public consorting with prostitutes. In 1518 he fled to the city after an attempted homicide. The Basel city council invited him to return as the mint's die cutter in 1519. Graf disappeared from Basel in 1527, though a signed drawing from 1529 exists.