- Also known as
primary name: Graf, Urs
- individual; painter/draughtsman; goldsmith/metalworker; printmaker; Swiss; Male
- Life dates
- c.1485-c. 1527/28
- Goldsmith, draughtsman, printmaker, stained glass maker and die-cutter. Born Solothurn, and died Basel. Probably trained with his father, Hug Graf (died 1527/30) a goldsmith in Solothurn. A woodcut dated 1503, from a series of the Passion printed by Knoblouch in Strasbourg, is his earliest known work (Hollstein, 4-28). He was recorded in Basel in 1507 and in Zurich the same year, apprenticed to the goldsmith Lienhardt Triblin. In Basel he designed book illustrations for Adam Petri, Johannes Amerbach and others from 1509 onwards, and in 1511 he was the assistant of the glass-painter Hans Heinrich Wolleb; but only one signed glass-painting by him is known (Zürich, Schweizerisches Landesmuseum). In 1512 he entered the guild of goldsmiths and became a citizen of Basel. He was frequently in trouble with the authorities in Basel over a variety of offences, including libellous behaviour, involvement in fights and beating his wife. In 1518, he fled to Solothurn to evade punishment for having crippled a stranger in an attack; here he joined the goldsmiths' guild, but returned to Basel in 1519 when the town council appointed him die-cutter to the mint, an office which he held until 1523. There are examples of his coins in the Historisches Museum, Basel. He also worked as a mercenary soldier and participated in expeditions to Burgundy and Italy in 1510, 1513, 1515 and 1521-2. Graf was a prolific printmaker, primarily as a designer of book-illustrations, and he supplied printers in Paris as well as Basel and Strasbourg (Hollstein, 1-384); forty-seven designs for single sheet woodcuts, twenty-six engravings and two etchings, dated 1513 and 1519 are also recorded. The etching dated 1513 is known from a single recorded impression (Hollstein, 9; Basel, Kunstmuseum) and has been considered to be the earliest dated print in the technique, but the style and the type of signature indicate that it was probably done in the early 1520s (see Bartrum 1995, p. 12). The most inventive and memorable side of Graf's work are his drawings; about 200 have survived, the majority of which are in the Kunstmuseum, Basel. A remarkably high proportion of them were executed as ends in themselves, in a lively, calligraphic style quite unlike that of Graf's contemporaries. Many of the subjects reflect his life as a mercenary and frequently display a satirical, vicious sense of humour, particularly against women. Graf's most important work as a goldsmith was a reliquary head of St Bernard with scenes from the life of the saint, commissioned in 1519 by the monastery of St Urban (canton of Lucerne). Eight engraved plates of this have survived (Zurich, Schweizerisches Landesmuseum, and Basel ) from which modern impressions have been taken (Hollstein, 29-36). Two paintings have been ascribed to him: 'St George and the Dragon' and an 'Allegory of War' (both in Basel, Kunstmuseum).
- E. Major and E. Gradman, 'Vrs Graf', Basel, n.d. ; E. His, 'Beschreibendes Verzeichniss des Werks von Urs Graf', Jahrbücher für Kunstwissenschaft, vi, Leipzig, 1873, pp.145ff. C. Andersson, 'Dirnen-Krieger-Narren: Ausgewählte Zeichnungen von Urs Graf', Basel, 1978; C. Müller, 'Urs Graf: Die Zeichnungen in Kupferstichkabinett Basel' exhibition catalogue, Basel Kunstmuseum, 2001.