Pencz was a German draughtsman and painter active in the workshop of Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528). He arrived in Nuremberg in 1523 and subsequently entered Dürer’s workshop. He was imprisoned, together with the Beham brothers, for allegedly disseminating the radical political and religious views of Thomas Müntzer (c. 1488-1525), but was eventually pardoned and remained free to carry on with his painting. Pencz’s prints of the 1520s were heavily influenced by his master, and include copies after prints by Dürer.
Pencz was probably in northern Italy and Venice in the late 1520s and returned to Nuremberg in c.1529. Works by Venetian artists exerted a great influence upon him: a painting of Judith (Alte Pinakothek, Munich) shows a half-length figure in the manner of the early oeuvre of Palma Vecchio (c.1480-1528) or Titian (c.1485-1576).
In the years following 1533, Pencz made several large ceiling paintings on canvas and was one of the first in Germany to conceive ceiling pictures as a continuous whole.
Pencz completed in 1538 a prestigious commission from King Sigismund I of Poland to paint scenes from the Passion of Christ for the altarpiece in the Jagiellonian chapel in Wawel Cathedral, Kraków (in situ), left unfinished after the death of the court painter Hans Dürer (1490-?1538).
Between 1539 and 1540, Pencz seemingly made a second journey to Italy, going as far as Rome. There are many indications of this in his surviving drawings and engravings from the period. This second Italian journey also affected Pencz’s religious and mythological paintings, which mostly contain a few figures shown half-length in the Venetian style.
In September 1550 the Prussian Duke Albert sent for him to come to Königsberg as a court painter, at the instigation of the preacher Andreas Osiander (1498-1552), whose portrait Pencz had painted in 1544. Pencz set out on his journey but died en route.
Georg Pencz is represented in the following collections, among others: Art Institute of Chicago; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg; J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna; Louvre Museum, Paris; Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, California; Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, British Columbia; Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University, Illinois; Brigham Young University Museum of Art, Utah; Christchurch Art Gallery, Te Puna O Waiwhetu, New Zealand; Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio; Dallas Museum of Art, Texas; Harvard University Art Museums, Massachusetts; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minnesota; Brukenthal Museum, Romania; North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh; Schleswig-Holstein Museum; Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe; Université de Liège Collections; University of Virginia Art Museum, Charlottesville; Uffizi, Florence...