Claude Lorrain France

1600 Chamagne, FRA – 11-23-1682 Rome, ITA

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Lorrain, Claude

Claude Lorrain was born Claude Gellée and parents both died when he was twelve years old, and he then lived at Freiburg with an elder brother Jean Gellée. Jean was an artist and taught Claude the rudiments of his profession. Claude then travelled to Italy, first working for Goffredo Wals in Naples, then joining the workshop of Agostino Tassi in Rome.

On his travels, Claude Lorrain briefly stayed in Marseilles, Genoa, and Venice, and had the opportunity to study nature in France, Italy, and Bavaria. Sandrart met Claude in late 1620s and reported that by then the artist had a habit of sketching outdoors, particularly at dawn and at dusk, making oil studies on the spot. The first dated painting by Claude Lorrain, Landscape with Cattle and Peasants from 1629, already shows well-developed style and technique. In the next few years his reputation was growing steadily, as evidenced by commissions from the French ambassador in Rome and the King of Spain. Baldinucci reported that a particularly important commission came from Cardinal Bentivoglio, who was impressed by the two landscapes Claude painted for him, and recommended the artist to Pope Urban VIII. Four paintings were made for the Pope in 1635–38. From this point, Claude's reputation was secured.

In Rome, it was not until the mid-17th century that landscapes were deemed fit for serious painting. Northern Europeans working there, such as Elsheimer and Brill, had made such views pre-eminent in some of their paintings; but not until Annibale Carracci and his pupil Domenichino do we see landscape become the focus of a canvas by a major Italian artist. Even with the latter two, as with Claude Lorrain, the stated themes of the paintings were mythic or religious. Landscape as a subject was distinctly un-classical and secular. The second quality had less public patronage in Counter-Reformation Rome, which prized subjects worthy of "high painting," typically religious or mythic scenes. Pure landscape, like pure still-life or genre painting, reflected an aesthetic viewpoint regarded as lacking in moral seriousness. Rome, the theological and philosophical center of 17th century Italian art, was not quite ready for such a break with tradition.

In this matter of the importance of landscape, Claude Lorrain was prescient. Living in a pre-Romantic era, he did not depict those uninhabited panoramas that were to be esteemed in later centuries, such as with Salvatore Rosa.

Art Movement: Baroque
Influences: Jean Gellée Lorrain, Goffredo Wals, Agostino Tassi
Traveled: Italy, Germany
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