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Claude Lorrain Biography and Works ! French artist | Britannica

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 Who is Claude Lorrain? Information on Claude Lorrain biography, life story, works, paintings and style.

Claude Lorrain

Claude Lorrain Biography and Works


Claude Lorrain; (1600-1682), French painter, whose idealized landscapes of the Roman countryside have a grandeur, harmony, and beauty inspired by Greek mythology and antique bucolic poetry. His serenely balanced compositions are magnificently suffused in an all-pervading light. The tiny mythical or Biblical figures in his paintings in no way compromise his real subject—the landscape.


Life. Claude Lorrain, or Le Lorrain, was born Claude Gellee (Gelee) in Champagne, in the French part of Lorraine, for which he was named. He was said to be a poorly educated, simple man. By 1620 he had moved to Rome, where he lived for most of his life. His principal master was Agostino Tassi, a painter of landscapes. About 1635, Claude passed quite suddenly from relative obscurity to celebrity, with such patrons as Pope Urban VIII and King Philip IV of Spain, and by 1634 he had become so famous that his works were being forged. From that period on, he kept the Liber Veritatis, six books of detailed drawings of his completed works that are still used to verify the authenticity of his work. Claude died in Rome on Nov. 21, 1682.


Style. Claude’s style owes relatively little to his masters and much to the classicist and realist reforms of mannerism that were then taking place in Rome. The clarity and monumentality of his compositions derive largely from the classical landscapes of Annibale Carracci and Domenichino, and his lighting owes much to the German Adam Elsheimer, who applied the realistic, dramatic light (chiaroscuro) of Caravaggio to landscape. Claude preferred three basic kinds of scenes—mountains and valleys, harbor views, and coastal scenes combining sea and land. His style evolved from an early period in the 1630’s, in which he used solid forms, strong colors, and a powerful, raking light; through a middle period, beginning about 1640, of severely balanced landscapes (especially notable in this time are the harbor scenes seen against sunrise or sunset); to the style of his late maturity and old age—spectacular views in a reverberant light.


Works. Among Claude’s best-known masterpieces are The Mill (1631; Boston Museum of Fine Arts); Harbor in Mist: The Embarkation of Ulysses (1646; Louvre, Paris); Pastoral Landscape (1647; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City); Seaport: The Embarkation of the Çueen of Sheba (1648) and Landscape: Hagar and the Angel (1668; both in the National Gallery, London); and The Rest on the Flight into Egypt (1661; Hermitage, Leningrad).


Claude’s work lacks the intellectual character and the severe ordering of the paintings of his friend, the great French classicist Nicolas Poussin. It has, nevertheless, an immediately appealing, poetic quality as contrasted with the stoical power behind Poussin’s work. Claude’s paintings were among the most popular models used by landscape painters until the middle of the 19th century.

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