Cranach, Or Kranach, Lucas, a German painter and engraver, born in Kranach, near Bamberg, in 1472, died in Weimar, Oct. 16, 1553. His family name was Sunder, but according to the custom of his time he took the name of his birthplace. He was court painter to three electors of Saxony - Frederick the Wise, John the Steadfast, and John Frederick the Magnanimous. He accompanied the first to the Holy Land in 1493, and shared the imprisonment to which the last was subjected after the battle of Mtlhlberg in 1547. He was burgomaster of Wittenberg, and enjoyed the friendship of Luther, Melanchthon, and the other great reformers, whom he frequently introduced into his pictures. The school of Saxony, of which he was the head, is parallel to that of Albert Diirer, with whom he had much in common, although the earnestness and grandeur of the latter are replaced in Cranach by a graceful and almost childlike simplicity. Like Diirer, however, he was swayed by the fantastic element then so prevalent in German art. His works are numerous in Germany, particularly in Saxony, and some good specimens are to be found in Florence. One of the most celebrated is an altarpiece at Weimar, representing in the middle the crucified Saviour, on one side of whom stand John the Baptist, the artist, and Luther, and on the other is the Redeemer victorious over death and the devil.
On the wings are portraits of the elector and his family. The picture has remarkable power in parts, and the portrait of Luther is singularly grand. In the wings of another altar-piece in the city church at Wittenberg, representing the last supper, he has introduced Luther, Melanchthon, and Bugenhagen, performing various religious duties. In mythological subjects he was not less successful, and his nude female figures have sometimes much grace and beauty of form. He also excelled in portraits, and has left accurate likenesses of some of the most notable men of the time. As an engraver he was inferior to Durer, but his woodcuts are highly esteemed. - His son, Lucas the younger, who was also a burgomaster of Wittenberg, and died there in 1586, formed his style on that of his father and of Durer, and attained great excellence as a painter.