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April 200
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Celebrating Lucas Cranach
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Celebrating Rennaissance Painter Lucas Cranach

  TWIG - Reformation artist Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553) died 450 years ago this year, and Germany is paying tribute to his prolific talent with a flurry of special events and exhibitions. Known for his detailed woodcuts, graceful nudes and lush portraits of the leading German figures of his day, Cranach painted so rapidly his pictures vary between lifelike and crude, but his decorative genius and fresh spirit have sealed his reputation as a master of northern Rennaissance painting.

A major survey of Cranach’s work opened April 6 at the Bucerius Kunst Forum in Hamburg, where visitors can take in 60 paintings and 20 drawings, woodcuts and copper engravings. In a major departure from medieval art, Cranach often turned to classical mythology for inspiration, and his endless variations on nymphs and on Venus and Cupid are a focus of the Hamburg show. In one section, his works are shown side-by-side with 20th-century art drawing on the same themes. Pablo Picasso’s 1949 depiction of Venus and Cupid is shown next to one Cranach created 400 years earlier. Cranach-like works by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Erich Heckel and Alberto Giacometti are also on display.

Cranach learned to draw and paint from his father, and developed his skills in Vienna and Nüremberg before accepting a post as court painter to Friedrich III, elector of Saxony, in Wittenberg (Saxony-Anhalt). He ran a workshop from his home, employing as many as 11 apprentices at a time. His paintings were widely sought after during his lifetime. By 1528, he had become the second-richest man in Wittenberg, and by 1537 he had became mayor. Cranach also had a license to serve beer and wine and acquired an apothecary that stayed in business until the 19th century.

A new permanent exhibit on Cranach’s life and work opened April 11 at his former home in Wittenberg. Among the objects on display is a book he illustrated by religious reformer Martin Luther (1483-1546), his friend for more than 25 years. Also featured is a replica of a Gutenberg printing press, similar to one Cranach used to help Luther publish his ideas. Cultural events celebrating the artist will also be held this year in Torgau (Saxony), Dessau (Saxony-Anhalt), Weimar (Thuringia) and his birthplace, Kronach (Bavaria), from which he takes his name.


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