Teachers Lesson Plans

An introduction to the prints of Albrecht Dürer

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In a woodcut like Samson Rending the Lion, each line is created by a subtractive process of removing wood to leave the image in relief. As such the quality of the lines varies greatly according to the skill and intentions of the woodcarver; they can be rounded, tapered, straight, stubby, etc.

Engraved lines, as seen in St. Eustace, are distinctive because they all have tapered ends. The engraver starts a line by applying firm pressure to the incising tool and pushing the tool forward, gouging out metal, to end the line the engraver lessens the pressure on the tool. This drive and lift motion causes the lines to taper to a point.

In a woodcut print a thick black outline demarcates one form from another. Note the strong horizontal lines which disappear into the thick black boundary, which forms the cloud pattern in Samson Rending the Lion. This strong black outline demarcating forms is a characteristic of woodcut prints and does not consistently appear in engravings.