Lucas the Elder
(b. 1472, Kronach, d. 1553, Weimar)
|Lucas Cranach the Elder
was a German Renaissance painter and graphic artist who excelled in portraits
and in female nudes.
Cranach, whose original name may have been Lucas Müller or Sunder, was born on October 4, 1472, in Kranach, Franconia, from which town he took his surname. It is believed that Cranach (Kranach) studied painting with his father. From about 1501 to 1504 he lived in Vienna, and his earliest known works date from this period. They include a portrait of a humanist, Doctor Reuss (Germanisches Museum, Nuremberg) and a Crucifixion (1503, Alte Pinakothek, Munich). His work at this time, lyrical and spirited with landscape setting, was influenced by that of Albrecht Durer.
In 1505 Cranach became court painter to the electors of Saxony at Wittenberg, a position he held until 1550. He was a prominent citizen in Wittenberg, received a title, and became mayor in 1537. In 1508 he visited the Netherlands, where he painted portraits of such royalty as Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I and the young prince who succeeded him as Charles V. For his electoral patrons he painted biblical and mythological scenes with decorative sensual nudes that were new to German painting. These works include many versions of Adam and Eve, The Judgment of Paris (1529, Metropolitan Museum, New York City), and Venus and Amor (1531, Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels).
Cranach was a friend of Martin Luther, and his art expresses much of the spirit and feeling of the German Reformation. Cranach propagandized for the Protestant cause in many portraits, woodcuts, and engravings. His portraits of Protestant leaders, including many versions of Luther and Duke Henry of Saxony (1514, Gemaldegalerie, Dresden), are sober and meticulously drawn. Cranach ran a large workshop and worked with great speed, producing hundreds of works. He died in Weimar, on October 15, 1553. Cranach's sons were both artists, but the only one to achieve distinction was Lucas Cranach the Younger, who was his father's pupil and often his assistant.