A German painter and woodcut printmaker, Burgkmair created nearly 800 woodcuts, often used for book illustrations. He is often credited with being the first German artist with a firm influence from the Italian Renaissance and for being the first printmaker to utilize the contrast technique of chiaroscuro in his woodcuts. The son of a painter, he began his training under the German painter and engraver, Martin Schongauer (1448 – 1491) in the town of Colmar during the artist’s last years. Schongauer was the leading printmaker of German art before Albrecht Dürer (1471 – 1528) came to prominence.
After traveling to Italy, Burgkmair developed a richly colorful and detailed compositional style, born of his Renaissance influence. While Dürer set a similar impact of Italian influence in Nuremburg, Burgkmair established this style in Augsburg. His most famous works were done for the large series of woodcuts, The Triumphs of Maximilian, depicting the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I (1459 – 1519). Burgkmair executed about half of the 135 pieces of the series, completed from 1508 through 1519.
His portraits, including one now in the Uffizi Gallery, were well regarded, as were his fresco pieces. One of his best known fresco accomplishments was the decorations for what is said to be Germany’s first Renaissance palace, the home of a wealthy merchant named Jakob Fugger in Augsburg. He also executed one of his famous chiaroscuro woodcuts as a portrait of Fugger. His paintings are also housed in Vienna and Munich; the latter is where his beautifully detailed Saint John the Evangelist in Patmos, survives.
Burgkmair’s son, Hans the Younger (1500 – 1559) became a painter and engraver. The artist is said to have also influenced the painter Hans Holbein the Younger (1497 – 1543) of the Holbein family of painters.