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Lucas Cranach the Elder

Painter, history painter, portrait painter, draughtsman, commercial artist, block-cutter, copperplate engraver, publisher, apothecary, bookseller and paper merchant

Born
1472 in Kronach
Died
1553 in Weimar
School
Renaissance

16 Works by Lucas Cranach the Elder

3 Works based on Lucas Cranach the Elder

Biography

Lucas Cranach was probably trained in his father's workshop in Kronach. In 1498 his journeyman travels took him to Vienna by way of Nuremberg, Regensburg, and Linz. His earliest dated works were done in 1502. In 1505 Cranach became court painter to the Saxon elector Frederick the Wise in Wittenberg, replacing Jacopo de' Barbari in the post. His establishment of a large workshop with pupils and apprentices allowed him to take on numerous portrait commissions and depictions of events at court. In 1508 the elector granted him a hereditary coat of arms. In 1515 he helped to produce the illustrations for the prayer book of Emperor Maximilian I. In close personal contact with Luther, he became engaged in the Reformation and the development of specifically Protestant types of images that were included in the illustrations for the first Luther Bible. Cranach's polemical handbill 'Der Himmelswagen und der Höllenwagen des Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt' ('The Heaven and Hell Wagons of Andreas Bodenstein of Karlstadt') appeared in 1519. In 1520 he painted his first Luther portrait, and in 1529, with 'Gesetz und Gnade' ('Law and Grace'), a programmatic Lutheran picture that was often copied. With support from his workshop, in which his two sons Lucas the Younger and Hans were employed, Cranach produced a number of altarpieces, wall paintings, biblical and mythological pictures, and portraits, as well as some 250 designs for woodcuts and a few engravings. Between 1519 and 1549 he was a permanent councillor, three times chamberlain, and mayor. In 1528 he was listed as Wittenberg's wealthiest citizen. After the Battle of Mühlberg in 1547, the elector Johann Friedrich was taken prisoner by the Emperor and had to let the seventy-five-year-old artist go as court painter. In 1550 Cranach followed his employer into exile in Innsbruck, and two years later to his new residence in Weimar, where he died in 1553. He is considered the chief master of the Saxon-Central German School, and the formulaic style of his later years influenced the art of central and eastern Germany around the middle of the sixteenth century.

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