Cranach’s chief accomplishments were in portraiture and paintings of religious and mythological subjects, as well as prints and drawings. Best known as court painter to the Electors of Saxony and the foremost artist of the Reformation, he also worked for the local merchant class and Catholic patrons such as the members of the Albertine line of Saxon princes and Cardinal Albrecht of Brandenburg, one of Luther’s archenemies. Assisted by sons Hans and Lucas, Cranach directed a flourishing workshop which was responsible for executing many of his public commissions and an increasing number of private commissions after the 1520s, typically painting numerous variations of successful compositions whose syncopated Gothic linear rhythms and brilliant color give them a decorative appeal which is popular to this day. Remarkably, the quality of Cranach’s workshop production remained consistently high, especially the works signed by his son Lucas Cranach the Younger (1515–86). Paintings featuring courtly ladies, blithe nudes or femme fatales — Venus, Judith, Lucretia, Salome were particularly in vogue. His jewel-toned palette, compressed sense of space and strong graphic line have an undeniable appeal to the modern eye and influence artists such as Pablo Picasso (1881–1973), Otto Dix (1891–1969) and John Currin (b. 1962) as well as collectors of contemporary art.
Books on Cranach
Renaissance and Reformation: German Art in the Age of Dürer and Cranach, exh. cat., Munich, 2016.
Gunnar Heydenreich, Lucas Cranach the Elder: Painting Materials, Techniques and Workshop Practice, Amsterdam, 2007.
Werner Schade, Lucas Cranach: Glaube, Mythologie und Moderne, exh. cat., Ostfildern-Ruit, 2003.
Max J. Friedländer and Jakob Rosenberg, The Paintings of Lucas Cranach, rev. ed., trans. Heinz Norden, Ithaca, 1978.
Karel van Mander, The Lives of the Illustrious Netherlandish and German Painters, 1603/4, trans. Hessel Miedema, Doornspijk, 1994.