"Life of Lucas Cranach"



    74-minute PowerPoint slide show (with sound) - Erwin Weber - July, 2000


Lucas Cranach 1554
by Cranach the Younger
St. Christopher
Chicago Art Institute
Rest on the Flight to Egypt
Dahlem Museum, Berlin
Madonna and Child
Minneapolis Art Institute
Luther with Reformers
Toledo Museum of Art
Cranach's Epitaph
Herderkircher, Weimar

I have prepared a 74-minute PowerPoint slide presentation in two parts which concentrates on the life of Cranach the Elder from his birth in Kronach in upper Bavaria in 1472 to his studies in Nuremberg, Vienna to his call to Wittenberg as painter at the court of the Elector of Saxony, and his close friendship with Luther until the death of the artist in Weimar in 1553. The slide presentation is narrated by Kai Swanson.

Lucas Cranach, named after the city of his birth Kronach, learned "artem grahicam" from his father who was an artist in Kronach. The city is located in hills of the Franconian Forest in Northern Bavaria. As was the custom of young artists, Cranach traveled first to Nuremberg to visit Dürer's home and workshop. There he was impressed with Dürer's large engravings and woodcuts. In Vienna, Cranach saw the works of Albrecht Altdorfer, the father of the Danube School, which fused the Gothic them of the medieval Church with elements of the Renaissance which stressed the importance of man in nature.

Soon after his call to Wittenberg, the elector of Saxony sent Cranach to the Netherlands where he saw the works of Rogier van der Weyden and Hieronymous Bosch. Cranach copied Bosch's "Last Judgment" with its grotesque figures and slender nudes. Upon his return to Wittenberg, Cranach and his workshop made numerous portraits of nudes such as Venus and Cupid, Adam and Eve, saints and martyrs, princes, leading citizens, and altarpieces.

When Luther's first great tracts of the Reformation appeared in 1519, Cranach made woodcuts for their covers. As a result of the business connection, Luther and Cranach became best friends. Gradually the artist not only made portraits of Luther and other reformers, but gradually took many thoughts of Luther and with brush and paint created Evangelical sermons in paint.

Such a sermon is Cranach's Epitaph located in the Herderkirche in Weimar. Cranach stands between John the Baptist and Luther. The artist has folded his hands in prayer as the Blood of Christ streams upon the head of Cranach. For the blood of Christ also has a meaning for Cranach, an insight he received from Martin Luther, the man he could trust. As John the Baptist points to the coming of Christ, and the Lamb of God, so Cranach points the way to Luther's ideology with his Reformation paintings. Luther stand next to Cranach. The great Reformer points to a passage in the New Testament, "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the son of Man be lifted up, so that whoever believes in Him, may have eternal life."

When Cranach left Wittenberg and moved to Weimar where he died in 1553, his son, Lucas Cranach the Younger, took over Cranach's workshop in Wittenberg and continued the work of his father as "Painter of the Reformation."

The slide presentation concludes with a few paintings and altarpieces by Cranach the Younger, in particular, the five-paneled altarpiece which was located in the City Church in Kemberg. It was accidentally destroyed by fire in 1994.