"Lucas Cranach, Painter of the Reformation"



    The Lutheran Journal, Vol. 49, #2, 1982 - Erwin Weber


Luther and other reformers of the 16th century preached the Gospel from the pulpit and wrote religious tracts with fiery words which every German could readily understand. Lucas Cranach painted his "sermons" with brush and pigment on wood and canvas for churches and chapels, to help people see with their own eyes and to understand the meaning of the Holy Scripture.

This article deals primarily with stations in life of Lucas Cranach the Elder, and some of his works especially those which are on display in museums in the United States, namely, the Art Institute of Chicago; Chrysler Museum in Norfolk, Virginia; the St. Louis Museum of Art; the Metropolitan Museum in New York City; the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.; the Detroit Art Institute; the Toledo Museum of Art; the Cincinnati Art Museum; the Cleveland Museum of Art; and the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

The cover photo, which I took in the City Church in Wittenberg, shows the Reformation Altarpiece. This is probably the crowning glory of Cranach's work, although, it is sought that it was completed by his son, Lucas Cranach the Younger sometime after 1533. It illustrates the three sacraments of the Lutheran faith: baptism, holy communion and confession. Later, Luther steered away from considering confession a sacrament because the outer signs were missing, e.g., in baptism there is water, and in holy communion there is the bread and the wine.