Born and died in Colmar. Schongauer was the first engraver also known as a notable painter. His fame in both fields had reached Italy within his lifetime. He was the first to successfully translate the values of the Netherlandish painters such as Van Eyck and Van der Weyden into the medium of engraving.
His background as the son of a goldsmith, with two brothers who continued in the craft, no doubt gave him the opportunity to learn the use of the burin. After about a year studying at Leipzig University in 1465, he trained as a painter, though it is not known who with. Most engravers of the period had a background in goldsmithing, as the technique and tools of cutting into metal with a burin were shared by the two arts.
His engraving technique improved on that of his predecessors so that his deeper line enabled larger numbers of good impressions could be made of his prints. However these were by no means enough to meet demand and hundreds of copies were made of his prints both in his lifetime and for decades afterwards.
His earlier prints include a number of unprecedently large and sophisticated compositions, but in what are believed to be the later prints he moved towards a highly elegant simplicity.