Claude Lorrain Biography | Oil Paintings

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

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Lorrain, Claude

Claude Lorrain was born Claude Gellée and his parents both died when he was twelve years old, he then went to live with an elder brother Jean Gellée who was an artist and taught Claude some of the basics of his profession. In the village, Lorrain was apprenticed to a pastry baker, and with fellow cooks and bakers, they all traveled to Rome, where he eventually became a servant and cook of Agostino Tassi, the rapist of Artemisia Gentileschi. Seeing that Lorrain was interested in art and had already some basic knowledge or art, Tassi who had a large workshop studio made him an apprentice and taught him drawing and painting between 1622 to 1625.

After his apprenticeship, Claude Lorrain stayed in Marseilles, Genoa, and Venice, and by late 1620s already had a habit of sketching outdoors, particularly at dawn and at dusk, making oil studies on the spot. Lorrain's first painting that is dated, Landscape with Cattle and Peasants is from 1629, and his style and technique are already well-developed. In the next few years, his reputation grew steadily, and he received impressive commissions from the French ambassador in Rome, the King of Spain and from Cardinal Bentivoglio, who was awed by two landscapes oil paintings Claude Lorrain had painted for him. When Pope Urban VIII wanted his portrait painted, the Cardinal recommended Lorrain who painted four portrait paintings between 1635 to 1638, and from this point, Lorrain's reputation was secured. But it is not for portraits that he is known, it is for landscapes and marine paintings.

Destined to serve as a fundamental model for all the landscape painters at least until Corot and the English and German Romantics, Claude Lorrain spent most of his life in Rome, where he had settled at the age of thirteen. He joined the circle of the Bolognese classical painters and was also in contact with the French pensionnaires in the city.

He specialized exclusively in the natural landscapes genre. The countryside of the Latium region, with its ancient ruins, tall trees, calm seas, lakes and distant mountains, became the setting for an enchanted, idealized world. This direct observation of nature included figures, mythological episodes, and evocative architectural elements (including accurate depictions of existing ruins that anticipated the archaeological views of the following centuries), involving a studied use of light and a blend of reality and fantasy.

Claude Lorrain The Classical Ideal and the Magic of Light.

The sun reflecting on gentle waves of ports, coasts, and calm lakes is a recurrent theme in Claude Lorrain's landscapes. In particular, these conditions allow him to experiment with an unbroken continuity of space and light. The resulting dazzling sun and landscape fading into the distance in Seascape, seem to anticipate Turner. In fact, 150 years later, Turner painted Dido Building Carthage, and never wanted to sell it, he donated it to the National Gallery in London, on the condition that it be displayed beside Seaport with the Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba by Claude Lorrain that had inspired him.

In his mature works, under the influence of Annibale Carracci and Domenichino, Lorrain's landscapes become more sweeping and serene as shown in Landscape With The Marriage Of Isaac And Rebecca. The presence of country folk dancing, obviously they too are idealized, is a motif that was to be overused in the Italian landscapes of the following centuries.

The “Roman landscape”, which reworked the styles and settings invented in the “ideal landscape” of seventeenth-century painting in Emilia and France, became established on the European art market as a virtually separate genre. The “Roman landscape” genre continued to enjoy great favor until Corot and Turner. It functioned on many different levels, as an exercise in perspective for young artists, as a theme that was sure to sell well, as a nostalgic evocation, or as a Romantic interpretation of nature and the past.

In Rome, it was not until the mid-seventeenth century that landscapes were even considered for serious painting. Northern Europeans, such as Elsheimer and Brill, working in Rome had made the landscape the dominant theme in some of their paintings, but not until Annibale Carracci and later his pupil Domenichino did the landscape become the focus of a painting by a major Italian artist, but even they as with Claude Lorrain, painted mythic or religious landscapes. Landscape as a subject on its own was distinctly un-classical and secular.

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 seventeenth-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, but he came close.

Art Movement: Baroque.
Artists Influencing Claude Lorrain: Jean Gellée Lorrain, Goffredo Wals, Agostino Tassi, Annibale Carracci, Domenichino
He Traveled To Italy, Germany.
Painters Claude Lorrain Influenced: J M W Turner.
Artist Biography compiled by Albert L. Mansour at The World's Artist.

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