Cranach, Lucas 1472–1553 German Painter

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Cranach, Lucas
German painter

Lucas Cranach, known as "the Elder," was a painter and illustrator who dominated the art of northern and eastern Germany during the first half of the 1500s. He produced more portraits than any other painter in Renaissance Germany. He also introduced an expressive style of painting that influenced many other artists.

Born Lucas Maler in Kronach, Germany, Cranach changed his name to resemble that of his birthplace. There is little information about his life in Kronach, except that the work of German artist Albrecht DÜrer influenced him. In 1502 Cranach moved to Vienna, where he joined a humanist* group led by the poet Conrad Celtis. He created emotional religious paintings in which he used contrasting colors to set off agitated figures and landscapes. These works of Cranach, especially the way he represented nature, influenced other artists of the time. He later created nonreligious works in which outlines of nudes were displayed against a dark background.

In 1505 Cranach moved to Wittenberg, Germany, where he painted for the royal court of Saxony. For nearly 50 years he created portraits for three successive Saxon rulers. In addition, Cranach was associated with Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation*, working on religious pamphlets and Bible translations. His portraits of Protestant reformers projected their cause far beyond Wittenberg. However, he also accepted commissions from Catholic patrons*.

(See alsoArt in Germany; Bible; Protestant Reformation. )

see color plate 12, vol. 1

* humanist

referring to a Renaissance cultural movement promoting the study of the humanities (the languages, literature, and history of ancient Greece and Rome) as a guide to living

* Protestant Reformation

religious movement that began in the 1500s as a protest against certain practices of the Roman Catholic Church and eventually led to the establishment of a variety of Protestant churches

* patron

supporter or financial sponsor of an artist or writer

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Cranach, Lucas 1472–1553 German Painter

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