Dürer is best known as the greatest German Renaissance artist. But like so many at that time, his interests included much more than art and Dürer made remarkable achievements applying mathematics to art.
He was one of eighteen children and followed his father into the family trade of jewelry making. Learning his new craft, he also worked hard on his art and learnt the Germanic style.
He went on to study further in Venice and it was here that he learnt of the work of Pacioli and Leonardo. He read Euclid and began to adopt a scientific approach to art.
From about 1500 his work showed his increasing preoccupation with mathematical theories of proportion. His self-portrait of that year seems to have constructed the dimensions of his head proportionally. In 1504 he described the many calculations he made with a ruler and compass to accurately construct figures for his Adam and Eve engraving.
Dürer was interested not only in proportionality but also perspective. He used geometry as a means of mastering this which is seen in his Life of the Virgin woodcuts produced in the early 1500s.
In 1508 he produced a book on maths and its relation to art. His work combined the techniques of classical mathematics, tradesman’s ideas and the manuals of Italian artists.
Dürer was innovative in the study of descriptive geometry. Others went on to put the study on a sounder more rigorous mathematical basis, but Dürer through applying art to mathematics managed to develop very different ideas for research within mathematics itself.