Lucas Cranach The Elder Biography | Oil Painting Reproductions
1472 Kronach, GER – 10-16-1553 Weimar, GERBack to Artist IndexView Artists Paintings
Born in Kronach in Germany, where he derived his Surname, Lucas Cranach the Elder learned draftsmanship from his father. In 1505, after beginning his career in the Danube School, Lucas was invited to Wittenberg by the Prince Elector of Saxony, Frederick the Wise. In fact, he continued working for the Saxony court until he died almost 50 years later, which made him one of the most long-lived and active artists of the German Renaissance.
His style evolved from the legendary expressionism of his early production to the intellectual, decorative, and almost abstract graphic quality of his later works. He produced everything from altarpieces, etched copper, produced woodcuts and engraved the coinage and medals for the Saxon mint, in addition to painting classical nudes, portraits, allegories, hunting scenes, and Lutheran propaganda. Being one of the first artists to convert to the Reformation, Cranach went to great lengths to circulate his portraits of Martin Luther, his wife Catherine von Bora, and Melanchthon.
In 1509 he visited the Netherlands and painted the portrait of Emperor Maximilian and his son, the future Charles V. Although he produced many religious paintings, it should be noted that he sided with the reformers and painted the earliest authentic likeness of Martin Luther, while also executing numerous paintings of an allegorical or mythological character.
Judith With The Head Of Holofernes, this unforgettable figure is a masterly example of Cranach's exceptional skill in the rendering of texture and the sumptuous treatment of the color red. The magnificently elegant Judith can be considered a German response to early Italian Mannerism.
The first thirty years of the sixteenth century were one of the most brilliant and exciting periods in the history of German art. This was the brief but splendid period of the Northern Renaissance. Then the onset of the Reformation, (that began in earnest with Martin Luther's “95 Theses” in 1517) soon came crashing down onto this situation in ferment. Luther was subsequently excommunicated in 1520 by Pope Leo X. Luther repudiated all devotional images, which brought an end to religious painting and hence a drastic stagnation in German art.
Nevertheless, it is as a painter of very lifelike portraits that he is chiefly remembered, especially as a chronicler in oils of the leading personalities of the German Reformation. All three of his sons, including Lucas Cranach the Younger, were painters.
The Lutheran Church remembers Lucas Cranach the Elder as a great Christian on April 6, the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church (USA) honors him on August 5.