The district of Lorraine in France is synonymous with two things. The quiche-lorraine: a gourmet’s delight. And Claude Lorrain; an art connoisseur’s
In 1600, in Chamagne, a village in Lorraine, was born Claude Gellée, one of five children. A humble beginning indeed, for he was to become one of France’s finest landscape artists.
After his parents died, Claude moved in with his older brother, who was a wood carver. A while later, he went to Naples, where he worked as an apprentice to Godfrey Walls. In 1625, he was apprenticed to Agostino Tassi, in Rome. Here, he learned how to paint landscapes and seascapes and learned the rules of perspective. He also worked as an assistant to Karl Denvert, who was the painter to the Duke of Lorrain.
An Artistic Chronolog of Claude Lorrain
In 1627, Claude Lorrain painted two landscapes for Cardinal Bentivoglio.
From 1637 onwards, his fame began to increase rapidly. He befriended Nicholas Poussin, and together they traveled the country, painting landscapes.
A brief chronology of his works during this time is as follows:
1637 – Port with Villa Medici (Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence)
1638 – Landscape with the Finding of Moses (Museo del Prado, Madrid)
1639 – Seaport at Sunset (Musée du Louvre, Paris)
1639 – Landscape with the Embarkation of Saint Paula Romana at Ostia (Museo del Prado, Madrid)
1641 – Seaport: The Embarkation of St. Ursula (National Gallery at London)
1642 – The Disembarkation of Cleopatra at Tarsus (Musée du Louvre, Paris)
1645-46 – The Judgment of Paris (National Gallery of Art at Washington D.C.)
1648 – Landscape with the Marriage of Isaac and Rebekah (National Gallery at London)
1668 – The Departure of Hagar and Ishmael (Pinakothek at Munich)
1674 – A Seaport (Pinakothek at Munich)
Lorrain always kept a record of his paintings. These were in the form of tinted outline drawings. He named this record Liber Veritatis, which means the Book of Truth. Today, it is considered invaluable to art students.
An Artistic Appraisal
Claude Lorrain painted at a time when landscape painting was still in its nascent stages and was regarded as lacking in moral seriousness. The paintings of his time concentrated on religious and mythical themes.
In this context, it is interesting to understand Lorrain’s work. Though his paintings are essentially landscapes, they are not purely so. Lorrain was not a revolutionary painter. Well aware of public sentiment, he indulged his own interest in scenography very thoughtfully. He included in his paintings, mythological characters and demi-gods, heroes and saints. Often, he engaged other artists to paint figures on the landscapes he had lovingly created.
Claude’s use of light is one of his most important contributions to landscape paintings. He experimented with it, and his paintings are infused with light in all its moods. Strong and dramatic, frail and soft, warm and tranquil.
He inspired one of England’s greatest Romantic landscape painters: J.M.W. Turner (link to Turner)