Lucas Cranach the Elder and the YoungerLucas Cranach the Elder was, with Albrecht Dürer, probably one of the most important and influential German artists of the first half of the sixteenth century. After a brief sojourn in Vienna at the beginning of his career, Cranach became court artist to the Saxon court in 1505.
He took up residence in Wittenberg and remained in the service of no less than three consecutive Electors over nearly five decades. His duties in this capacity were numerous. As a painter, he directed what was probably the largest and most efficient workshop of his time. In addition, he was a successful entrepreneur, repeatedly mayor of Wittenberg, owner of a pharmacy and a publishing business.
Printmaking represented only one element of his output. It was during his first years in Wittenberg that Cranach produced a large quantity of extremely varied woodcuts (in addition to a few engravings), both religious and secular, which were at times highly innovative, introducing new genres into printmaking as well as developing new techniques such as the chiaroscuro process.
At the same time, by displaying the Saxon coats of arms, nearly all of these prints promoted the Elector’s role as a patron of the arts.
The artist’s second period of graphic production was triggered by the start of the reformation: as a personal friend of Luther, Cranach not only provided illustrations for his Bible translations, but also contributed some of the pivotal images of anti-papal propaganda in a swiftly escalating ‘war of images'.
Trained in his father’s workshop, the early work of Lucas Cranach the Younger is difficult to distinguish from that of Lucas the Elder. It is not until the 1540s that his style can be clearly recognized. From the middle of the century onwards he continued the Wittenberg workshop where he produced a multitude of paintings and prints. Among the latter are about ten large broadsheets, most of them relating to reformation topics, various book illustrations and a large number of portraits. In print (as well as in painting) Lucas Cranach the Younger therefore took over his father’s role in shaping the image of the leaders of the reformation that persists to this day.
This volume will list and illustrate all prints by both the elder and the younger Cranach, including book illustrations and decorative title borders designed in their workshop. On the basis of extensive research in all the major print rooms of Europe as well as in the United States, it will also describe for the first time the different editions printed from the woodblocks up to the seventeenth century and list the main repositories of the various states and editions of the prints. This is particularly useful since the priviledged position of the elder Cranach as court artist meant that he did not need to continuously re-issue his prints for sale. Compared to the works of most other sixteenth-century printmakers, prints by the Cranachs are therefore rather uncommon and early impressions count among the great rarities of the medium during the German Renaissance.
by Armin Kunz and Lothar Schmitt