Grunewald was born in the 1470s but his exact date of birth is unknown. Details of his life are quite sparse, even his name is the subject of speculation and the names Gothart and Neithardt are more likely surnames.
Although the artist's reputation was well established in his own lifetime his work was overlooked until the late nineteenth century.
Many of his works were attributed to his contemporary Albrecht Dürer but, unlike Dürer, his art was not influenced by Renaissance classicism. The styles of the two artists are quite different, Dürer absorbed the lessons of the Italian Renaissance while Grunewald's work displays the expressive intensity of the late medieval period.
Very few of Grunewald's work survives, only around ten paintings are attributed to him, (although around thirty-five drawings survive), all have a religious theme, many are recurring graphic scenes of the Crucifixion.