On loan from major museums and art collections, notably the Städel in Frankfurt, the Royal Academy brings together a comprehensive exhibition of over 70 masterpieces by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553), the great Reformation painter.
More popular and even more successful economically than his contemporary Albrecht Dürer, Lucas Cranach has probably had the most enduring influence on Germany’s visual world. The show thus attempts to uncover the secret of his success.
As the leading member of a German family of artists, Lucas Cranach was a painter, printmaker and book illustrator with a distinctly individual manner and a highly successful business. He was one of the most versatile artists of the Renaissance, court artist to the Saxon electors, a staunch supporter of the Reformation, and a close friend of Martin Luther. During the course of his long career, Cranach created striking portraits and expressive devotional works, propaganda for the Protestant cause, as well as his own brand of erotic female nude and inventive treatments of biblical, mythological and classical subjects.
The nude Venus, 1532, the painting featured on the left, caused an uproar in Britain because it was supposed to appear on the poster publicizing the exhibition, but the London Underground authorities initially banned it, stating it would only display the image if the bottom half was cropped out.
Academy spokeswoman Jennifer Francis said, “I think it is because she's totally nude as opposed to say she's topless. We're shocked. We wouldn't have put a poster design forward if we thought it was offensive."
Jennifer Francis stated that the "Venus" was chosen because it best represents Cranach's work, but the academy was uncomfortable altering the artist's work by cropping it. Jennifer Francis stated, "We actually thought it was quite an innocent painting." In the end, however, Transport for London decided to allow the nude venus to be shown all over the Tube.
Still, some officials and members of the British public consider the Royal Academy's poster with the Cranach nude obscene, pornographic and more like an advertisement for "a high class hooker".