Lucas Cranach the Elder took his surname from his birthplace, Kronach, where he probably trained with his painter father. Around 1501 he went to Vienna, where he focused on drawing ruins and windswept trees. In 1505 he became court painter to Frederick the Wise of Saxony in Wittenberg, a position he maintained for life under various electors.
At court, Cranach specialized in portraits. Bold design, intense color, and gracefully outlined costumes typify his court likenesses. He may have invented the full-length portrait as an independent work of art. Like Albrecht Dürer before him, Cranach created fine, valued engravings and woodcuts as well as paintings. His large workshop included his sons Hans and Lucas.
One of Wittenberg's leading citizens, Cranach owned a bookshop and a pharmacy and served on the city council in addition to his work at court. As Martin Luther's close friend, he supervised the printing of Luther's propaganda pamphlets; designed woodcuts for Luther's translation of the New Testament; painted altarpieces for Lutheran churches; and painted, engraved, and made woodcut portraits of Protestant Reformers and princes.