Lucas Cranach

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Cranach, Lucas (14721553)

A German painter and engraver, known for his expressive religious paintings, his portraits of the German nobility, and his association with Martin Luther. His name comes from the town of his birth, Kronach, in central Germany. He may have trained with his father as a painter, and as a young man lived and worked in Vienna, the capital of the Habsburg dynasty. His reputation soon reached the elector of Saxony, who hired him as a court painter in 1504, the date of his first known painting, Rest During the Flight into Egypt. He was skilled in realistic still lifes and nature paintings, and his religious paintings often set his subjects in a gloomy and realistic wilderness. While in Saxony, he won commissions from the Saxon nobility to decorate the walls of their homes with hunting scenes; these same nobles also requested him to do pictures intended for private viewing that depict scantily clad or nude mythological figures. One of the most famous of these erotic paintings is The Judgment of Paris, which he completed in 1530.

In 1509 he journeyed to the Netherlands, where he painted portraits of the Habsburg royal family, including the boy who would later became Charles V. When he returned to Wittenberg, the capital of Saxony, he mastered the arts of engraving and printing, and managed an apothecary shop as well as a press that produced Bibles and tracts written by Luther. Cranach and Luther became friends, with Luther sitting for several famous portraits and Cranach printing woodcuts and tracts meant to spread Luther's message of redemption through faith. The elector Johann Frederick I appointed Cranach as the burgomaster (mayor) of Wittenberg in 1531 and again in 1540. Cranach returned this favor by interceding with Charles V on behalf of the elector when Johann Frederick was captured at the Battle of Mühlberg.

Cranach painted scenes of classical mythology as well as Christian religious subjects. He showed his greatest skill in portraits, and depicted himself as well as Martin Luther in a famous Crucifixion. He was one of the first Renaissance painters to depict his subjects as they sat and posed alone. In the eyes of many art historians Cranach was a more original draftsman than painter, with many seeing his engravings, including St. Christopher and Elector Frederick Praying Before the Madonna, as among his best work. He produced woodcut engravings for the first German edition of the New Testament in 1522. He worked for both Catholic and Protestant patrons, however; and his workshop in Wittenberg became a productive center that attracted artists and patrons from throughout northern Germany.

See Also: Dürer, Albrecht; Luther, Martin

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Lucas Cranach (both: lōō´käs krä´näkh), the Elder, 1472–1553, German painter and engraver. The son of a painter, he settled in Wittenberg c.1504 and was court painter successively under three electors of Saxony. There he maintained a flourishing workshop and was twice burgomaster. Cranach was a close friend of Martin Luther, whose doctrine he upheld in numerous paintings and woodcuts, and he has been called the painter of the Reformation. He was a rapid and prolific painter, and the work turned out by his studio is uneven in quality. Naïve and fanciful, often awkward in draftsmanship, it has, nonetheless, freshness and originality and a warm, rich palette. His portraits are particularly successful. Among his best-known works are Repose in Egypt (Gemäldgalerie, Staatliche Mus., Berlin-Dahlem); Judgment of Paris (Staatliche Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe); Adam and Eve (Courtauld Inst., London); and Crucifixion (Weimar). The latter contains figures of Luther and Cranach. His many famous protraits include those of Elector John Frederick and Self-Portrait (Uffizi). Cranach was also an accomplished miniaturist. He produced a few copperplates and designs for woodcuts. His son and pupil Lucas Cranach, the Younger, 1515–86, continued the tradition of his father, whose workshop, signature, and popularity he inherited. Their work is often indistinguishable.

See study ed. by E. Ruhmer (1963).

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Cranach (the Elder), Lucas (1472–1553) German painter and engraver, court artist to the Electors of Saxony. A friend and follower of Martin Luther, Cranach designed many propaganda woodcuts for the Protestant cause. He also produced some of the first full-length portraits and developed a style of painting female nudes in a unique, enamel-like finish.;;

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Cranach, Lucas, ‘the Elder’ (1472–1553). German artist whose altar-pieces, drawings, woodcuts, and portraits of leading Reformers gained him wide recognition. Once attracted to the Reformation cause, he became Luther's protector and close friend.