Lucas Cranach

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Cranach or Kranach, Lucas

(both: lo͞o`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 LutherLuther, Martin,
1483–1546, German leader of the Protestant Reformation, b. Eisleben, Saxony, of a family of small, but free, landholders. Early Life and Spiritual Crisis

Luther was educated at the cathedral school at Eisenach and at the Univ.
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, whose doctrine he upheld in numerous paintings and woodcuts, and he has been called the painter of the ReformationReformation,
religious revolution that took place in Western Europe in the 16th cent. It arose from objections to doctrines and practices in the medieval church (see Roman Catholic Church) and ultimately led to the freedom of dissent (see Protestantism).
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. 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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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Cranach, Lucas


(also Lucas Cranach the Elder). Born 1472 in Kronach, Upper Franconia; died Oct. 16, 1553, in Weimar. German painter and graphic artist.

Cranach probably trained under his father. From around 1500 to 1504 he worked in Austria. From 1505 to 1550 he was the court painter of Frederick the Wise, the elector of Saxony, and of Frederick's successors in Wittenberg. He worked in Augsburg from 1550 to 1552 and in Weimar from 1552 to 1553. He visited the Netherlands in 1509.

Cranach's early works are particularly striking for their conceptual innovations. In Crucifixion (1503, Alte Pinakothek, Munich) the bold truthfulness of the images, the sharp asymmetry of composition, and the agitated colors of the landscape seem to portend social upheaval. In contrast, the painting Rest on the Flight Into Egypt (1504, Picture Gallery, Berlin-Dahlem) reveals an idyllic mood; the keenness and freshness of its apprehension of nature opened the way for the achievements of the Danube style. While in Wittenberg, Cranach combined apparently contradictory subjects and techniques, reflecting the complex character of the epoch and milieu in which he lived. The works Martyrdom of St. Catherine (1506, Picture Gallery, Dresden) and Prince's Altar (1510, State Gallery, Dessau) reflect the achievements of Renaissance art. In Cranach's later religious works, Renaissance elements are mixed with qualities of affectation. These qualities, which also appear in his woodcuts, are reminiscent of late Gothic art but, at the same time, anticipate mannerism. Humanistic ideals are reflected in Venus and Cupid (1509, Hermitage, Leningrad), Madonna (Hermitage), and River Nymph (1518, Museum of Fine Arts, Leipzig).

Cranach, a friend of M. Luther (whose portrait he painted many times, including a copperplate engraving, 1521), disseminated the ideas of the Reformation in several of his works, including the woodcut Sermon of John the Baptist (1516). However, he also accepted commissions from opponents of the Reformation (for example, the portrait of Albert the Bear, 1526, Hermitage).

Cranach's position as court painter contributed to the development of affected and conventional elements, an interest in complex allegorical and mythological themes, and the revival of several Gothic traditions (frigid composition, meticulous attention to detail, and archaic criteria of beauty). This growing conventionality was aggravated by the fact that Cranach's studio assistants produced a large number of monotonous mediocre works with his signature. Cranach, to a great extent, retained his great skill as a portraitist. Beginning in the early period of his career, he executed a number of vividly expressive portraits of his contemporaries, including J. Cuspinian (1502–03, O. Reinhart collection, Winterthur), S. Reuss (1503, German National Museum, Nuremberg), and J. Scheyring (1529, Museum of Old Art, Brussels).

Cranach's house in Weimar has been preserved; the palace museum there has a Cranach gallery.


Gershenzon, N. M. Lukas Kranakh. Moscow, 1933.
Friedlä;nder, M. J., and J. Rosenberg. Die Gemdlde von Lucas Cranach. Berlin, 1932.
Lucas Cranach der Ältere: Der Künstler und seine Zeit. Berlin, 1953.
Lucas Cranach der Altere im Spiegel seiner Zeit. Berlin, 1953.
Jahn, J. Lucas Cranach als Graphiker. Leipzig, 1955.
Rosenberg, J. Die Zeichnungen Lucas Cranachs. Berlin, 1960.

K. M. KOBER [German Democratic Republic; 13–948–3]

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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However, one might not expect to find him in juxtaposition to nude paintings by Lucius Cranach. Other topics include clerical bigamy, murder to avoid suicide, torture, levitation and leprosy.

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