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Lucas Cranach the Elder
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Born LUCAS MÜLLER. Leading painter of Saxony, and regarded by some as one of the most important and influential artists in 16th-century German art. His vast output of paintings and woodcuts includes altarpieces, court portraits and portraits of Protestant Reformers, and many pictures of women (paintings of elongated female nudes or fashionably dressed ladies with titles from the Bible or mythology). Taught by his father, painter Hans Müller, with whom he worked from 1495 to 1498. Known to have been in Coburg in 1501, but the earliest of his existing works date from about 1502, when he was already 30 and living in Vienna. There he dropped the surname Müller, naming himself Cranach after his hometown (now spelled Kronach). Made important contributions to the painting and illustrations of the Danube school, (the art of the Austrian Danubian region around Vienna). Also came in contact with the Humanists' teaching at the university and did portraits of scholars Johannes Stephan Reuss (1503) and Johannes Cuspinian (c. 1502-03). Received appointment as court painter to the elector Frederick the Wise of Saxony; he was already a famous artist, given two and a half times the salary paid to his predecessor. In spring 1505 he arrived in Wittenberg, a university town on the Elbe River and seat of the electors. Stayed for 45 years, until 1550, as court painter. Became a prominent citizen, serving on the town council in 1519-20 and as burgermeister three times from 1537-44. Through Cranach, who received important commissions from three successive electors and attracted many young artists to town, Wittenberg became an art center. The Protestant Reformation began in 1517. Cranach was on friendly terms with Martin Luther, who had taught at the University of Wittenberg since 1508. Cranach painted portraits of Luther, his wife, Katherina von Bora, and his parents. These and other portraits help form today's image of Luther and his circle. Cranach became the chief visual propagandist of the Protestant cause, multiplying the images of Reformers and Protestant princes in numerous painted, engraved, and woodcut portraits. Cranach also made altarpieces and paintings for Lutheran churches. His works were sought after by Protestant and Roman Catholic patrons alike, and hundreds of pictures now in museums and private collections testify to his exceptional level of productivity.