Lucas Cranach the Elder the genius of German painting

The Fight of Men and the Discontent of Women
The Fight of Men and the Discontent of Women

The genius of German painting, deeply recognized by the Lutheran Church

Lucas Cranach the Elder the great German artist of the 16th century, an outstanding master of portrait, religious and landscape genres. Lucas Cranach the Elder also became famous for his skillful engravings and drawings; his work successfully combines the traditions of painting of the Gothic style and artistic techniques of the Renaissance. Many of the master’s paintings, painted on religious and mythological themes, are filled with graceful eroticism, and his biography is an example of the successful career of a talented artist.

Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden
Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden

Biography of Lucas Cranach the Elder

Lucas Cranach the Elder was born on October 4, 1472 in the family of a painter in the small German town of Kronach, located in the north of Bavaria. No reliable data has been preserved regarding the real surname of the master, and his pseudonym is a slightly modified version of the name of his hometown.

Lucas was fond of drawing from childhood, and his father was his first teacher. Unfortunately, it is not known who else the great artist studied, but information has been preserved that in 1493 he made a trip to Palestine, and later traveled a lot to the cities of southern Germany and Austria.

The Last Judgment (copy of Bosch's painting)
The Last Judgment (copy of Bosch’s painting)

In 1504, Lucas settled down permanently in Wittenberg. The first painting of the artist is dated the same year, the authorship of which is reliably established. In Wittenberg, he was recruited into the service of the court of the elector of Saxony Friedrich III (Friedrich III) with a salary of 100 guilders a year and the right to paint not only for his patron, but also for other customers.

Unequal Couple
Unequal Couple

Cranach the Elder made his living by making etchings, coins and theatrical decorations

In addition to painting, Cranach the Elder made his living by making etchings, coins and theatrical decorations, although his main income, nevertheless, came from writing ceremonial portraits of nobles and paintings of a religious genre for temples. The artist’s young years fell on the turbulent times of the Reformation of the Catholic Church, and Wittenberg was one of the main centers of Protestantism.

Lucas Cranach the Elder
Saint Catherine

Around 1520, Lucas met Martin Luther, and they were close friends for several decades. Moreover, Lucas and Martin became godfathers the painter was the godfather of the first-born Luther.

For outstanding services in the position of court painter, the Elector of Saxony bestowed Cranach the Elder nobility. Later, the successors of Frederick III, Johann der Beständige and Johann Friedrich I. von Sachsen, retained respect for him. Twice the painter was elected by citizens to the post of mayor of Wittenberg, since he enjoyed great prestige among the residents.

Lucas Cranach the Elder
Lucas Cranach I – Catherine, Duchess of Mecklenburg
Lucas Cranach the Elder actively participated in the Reformation

In addition to painting, Lucas Cranach the Elder actively participated in the Reformation movement for many years. He financed the publication of a Bible translated from Latin into German by Luther, drew poignant satirical pamphlets against the Catholic Church, and was successful in the book trade. By the end of his life, the artist became the richest burgher of Wittenberg, and more than 10 students worked in his workshop.

Lucas’s personal life was also happy. In the early 1510s, he married Barbara Brengber, a girl from a wealthy family of Wittenberg burghers. In marriage, they had five children two sons and three daughters. The sons inherited their father’s talent for painting and achieved significant success in their careers, but, nevertheless, they could not surpass him in popularity and fame. Interestingly, the artist’s direct descendants are two prominent people in Germany the theologian Polykarp (von) Leyser der Ältere) and the classic of European literature Johann Goethe.

Lucas Cranach the Elder
Lucas Cranach I – Source of eternal youth

Lucas Cranach the Elder by the end of his life became the most authoritative and respected master of painting in the 16th century. He never experienced financial difficulties, for many years he led the workshop and, with the help of his students, created more than 5,000 paintings, drawings and prints. But on October 16, 1553, the great master died in Weimar. The Lutheran Church, in commemoration of the artist’s merits, canonized him, and the name of the master is twice mentioned in the church calendar.

Lucas Cranach the Elder
The most famous paintings by Lucas Cranach the Elder

The creative heritage of the great German painter includes a huge number of beautiful masterpieces. But some of the most famous paintings by Lucas Cranach the Elder include:

  1. The Torment of Saint Barbara (1510) is a large-scale work on biblical themes, in which the martyr appears before the audience in the form of a beautiful woman who is ready to accept death for her faith.
  2. “Allegory of Law and Grace” (1529) is a painting with a deep religious meaning, which teaches people that the salvation of mankind is achieved by God’s grace.
  3. The Portrait of Martin Luther (1529) is the most famous portrait of the great reformer of the church. It is also worth noting that the artist has painted over 10 portraits of his close friend in total.
  4. The Fountain of Youth (1546) is one of the master’s last paintings dedicated to the theme of eternal youth. On it, the artist depicted in great detail the process of medieval bathing, usually hidden from prying eyes.
Lucas Cranach the Elder
Lucas Cranach the Elder

Lucas Cranach the Elder is rightfully one of the greatest masters of German art in the 16th century. Numerous masterpieces created by a genius are still admired by millions of visitors to the world’s best museums.

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