Life smiled on the artist, who was born in 1472 at Kronach and trained under his father, Hans Maler (“Hans the Painter”). Hugely successful from his early 30s on, Cranach the Elder was an accomplished businessman. He ran a studio that churned out scores of works to satisfy an ever-expanding demand and eventually had his son, Lucas Cranach the Younger, sharing the burden with him. Lucas Cranach Sr. was himself renowned for the speed with which he produced those pictures that were entirely from his own hand.
Cranach, who was closely involved in the political and religious affairs of the age, supported Martin Luther’s reform campaign, which became the Protestant movement. At the same time, the artist was adroit enough to continue to receive commissions from the Roman Catholic Church.
Of all the great artists who turned out to be skilled operators, Cranach the Elder was perhaps the most brilliant. Yet no remote suggestion of the happiness that this might have induced can be detected in any of the paintings that are credited to him.
The Gloomy Brilliance of Lucas Cranach the Elder (IHT/New York Times)