Printmakers You Should Know

Last month I took a hiatus from the "Printmakers You Should Know" in order to tell you about my adventures at the RSA conference in San Diego. Today, in homage to that Renaissance-themed event, we're going to travel back in time to the sixteenth century to meet a most peculiar printmaker, Hans Baldung Grien.

Hans Baldung, Standing Witch with Monster, ca. 1515. Have I got your attention now?

Hans Baldung (b. 1484-5, d. 1545) was born in what is now Germany, and died in what is now France. We don't know too much about his early life, but he seems to have been born into a family of intellectuals and academics. He probably received his early artistic training in the Upper Rhine area, but Swabia is another possibility. The last part of his name, "Grien," appears to have been a nickname he acquired, probably because he liked using the color green in his work.

Around 1503 or so, he joined the workshop of the renowned Albrecht Dürer, whose synthesis of Northern myopic detail with Italian idealism was causing quite the stir in the art world of the time.

Albrecht Durer, Self-Portrait, 1498, oil on panel. Museo de Prado, Madrid, Spain.

The Revelation of St. John: The Four Riders of the Apocalypse, woodcut, 1497-98. Durer's Revelation series, which consists of 15 woodcuts, is a masterpiece of the medium, and assured his reputation as a printmaker.

Compared to Dürer, Baldung's works have a more exaggerated, Mannerist kind of look. The colors are almost acidic in their brightness, and he eschews proportions for a more punchy, emotive look.

Hand Baldung, The Knight, Young Girl, and Death, oil on wood. Musee du Louvre, Paris, France.
Like many early modern artists, Baldung made his living with religious paintings and prints, as well as portraiture.

Hand Baldung, The Crucifixion, 1512, oil on panel.Gemaldegalerie, Berlin, Germany.
The Lamentation, 1515-1517, woodcut.
Hans Baldung, Ludwig, Count von Lowenstein, 1513, oil on wood. Gemaldegalerie, Berlin, Germany.

Yet he was also fond of erotica and witchcraft, and created several bizarre woodcuts and drawings of witches' sabbaths, often with lascivious (and, given the poor reputation of witches at the time, misogynistic) overtones. In short, his work is often bizarre, unsettling, and compelling.

Aristotle and Phyllis, 1513-14, woodcut. You can read about the story this print illustrates here.

The Bewitched Groom, 1544, woodcut. Some scholars argue that this is an allegory of lust.

Departing for the Sabbath, gouache. Albertina Collection, Vienna.

Witches' Sabbath, 1510, chiaroscuro woodcut. This is arguably Baldung's most well-known witchcraft image.

Want to learn more? Check out these websites:,_called_grien,_wi.aspx

Then there's this extremely thorough book, The Moment of Self-Portraiture in German Renaissance Art, by Joseph Leo Koerner, which compares the work of Dürer and Baldung:


  1. This is a wild and wonderful entry. I was scarcely aware of Baldung Grien before, and certainly was unaware of the breadth of weirdness there. Thanks!

    1. You're welcome! Glad you enjoyed the weirdness.


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