Hans Baldung

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Hans Baldung, known as Hans Baldung Grien/Grün (c. 1484–1545) was a German Renaissance artist in painting and printmaking in woodcut. He was considered the most gifted student of Albrecht Dürer.



The son of a lawyer, he was born Hans Baldung at Schwäbisch Gmünd in Swabia, Germany and moved to Strassburg (now Strasbourg) in 1484. He was the only male member of his family not to attend university, a background unusual for an artist at the time. His uncle became a doctor to the Emperor. He spent the greater part of his life at Strassburg and Freiburg im Breisgau. Grien joined Dürer's Nuremberg workshop in 1503, likely following initial training in Strassburg, and stayed until 1507. He seems to have been left in charge of the workshop during Dürer's second trip to Italy. It is presumed that he acquired his nickname of "Grien" (meaning "green") in Nuremberg; the workshop seems to have had three Hanses in it at one point. He later included it in his monogram, and it has also been suggested that it came from "grienhals", a German word for witch. In his later trip to the Netherlands in 1521 Dürer's diary shows that he took with him and sold prints by Baldung. On Dürer's death Baldung was sent a lock of his hair, which suggests a close friendship.

In 1509 Baldung purchased a citizenship of the city of Strassburg (then a German city, now in France), and lived there till 1513. He then moved to Freiburg im Breisgau after being contacted to paint a large altarpiece for the Freiburg Münster, which he finished in 1516 (still in situ). He returned to Strassburg in 1517, and died as a member of the town council in 1545. He had married Margarethe Herlin, from a prominent family in the city, and owned a number of properties.


The earliest pictures assigned to him by some are altar-pieces with the monogram H. B. interlaced, and the date of 1496, in the monastery chapel of Lichtenthal near Baden-Baden. Another early work is a portrait of the emperor Maximilian, drawn in 1501 on a leaf of a sketch-book now in the print-room at Karlsruhe. "The Martyrdom of St Sebastian and the Epiphany" (now Berlin, 1507), were painted for the market-church of Halle in Saxony.

Baldung's prints, though Düreresque, are very individual in style, and often in subject. They show little direct Italian influence. His paintings are less important than his prints. He worked mainly in woodcut, although he made six engravings, one very fine. He joined in the fashion for chiaroscuro woodcuts, adding a tone block to a woodcut of 1510. Most of his hundreds of woodcuts were commissioned for books, as was usual at the time; his "single-leaf" woodcuts (ie prints not for book illustration) are fewer than 100, though no two catalogues agree as to the exact number.

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