JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post
The "thing" about Urs Graf's art, for me, is the utter humanness of many of his figures--many of them, even the significant characters in his works, have a certain unexpected everyday quality to them, a common touch, right down to unruly Homer Simpson hairs on bald men, disciples or not.
This is a detail from Graf's (1485-1527/9) Passionis Christi... which was printed in 1506, the date of which makes Graf's achievement even more remarkable.
From Grove Art Online: Urs Graf (b Solothurn, c. 1485; d ?Basle, 1527–9).
"Swiss draughtsman, goldsmith, die-cutter, engraver, woodcut and stained-glass designer,painter and glass painter. He was the most original and gifted artist of the early Renaissance in German-speaking Switzerland. His highly imaginative drawings, created as independent works of art, are works of exceptional quality, vitality, expressiveness and often humour. For northern European art, Graf played an important role in the liberation of drawing from its traditionally subsidiary status as preparatory study for works of art in other media."
Here's the full version of the print, showing the Last Supper and Christ washing the feet of the Disciples:
[Image: Urs Graf: Standard Bearer of the Canton of Zug, white-line woodcut, 270×180 mm, c. 1521 (London, British Museum); photo © The British Museum]
And this too from Grove on "Working methods and technique":
"Most of Graf’s drawings are executed in pen and black ink, the earlier ones often over a chalk preparatory sketch, which is sometimes still faintly visible. Simple black lines are the ideal medium for his decidedly decorative, highly calligraphic line. Around 1513 he became familiar with the chiaroscuro drawings of Hans Baldung, who was then working near Basle, in Freiburg im Breisgau. Graf rapidly developed a mastery in this technique, as his Striding Standard-bearer(1514; Basle, Kstmus.) attests. He also worked very skilfully with the point of the brush, as in a series of colourful working drawings (1521; Basle, Kstmus.) for round stained glass, and also in silverpoint in a magnificent series of sketches of standard-bearers (c. 1520; all Basle, Kstmus.). Too little of his painted oeuvre has survived for any analysis of its technique."
And from Oxford Art Online: Urs Graf (c. 1485–1527/9).
"Swiss goldsmith, designer for stained glass, printmaker, and draughtsman, best known for his lively pen and ink drawings, of which about 100—more than half of the extant total—are in the Basle print room. Graf seems to have been an adventurous and, on occasion, violent man: he was frequently in trouble with the authorities in Basle on a variety of charges, including attempted homicide, consorting with prostitutes, and wife-beating. Between 1510 and 1521–2 he was enlisted as a mercenary soldier in foreign campaigns in Italy and France. His prints and drawings chronicle the bloody and lustful life of soldiers of fortune and their camp followers (Bust Portrait of a Prostitute, 1518; Basle, Kupferstichkabinett); his genre scenes of Basle street life hint at parody and caricature. Unusually for this period of German art, it appears that many of Graf's drawings were executed as independent works. Although stylistically conservative, his subject matter and his experiments with WOODCUT techniques (Standard Bearer, 1514; white-line woodcut) makeGraf an original and highly imaginative artist."