Claude Lorrain

Claude Lorrain zhəlāˈ [key], 1600–1682, French painter, b. Lorraine. Claude was the foremost landscape painter of his time. In Rome at about 12 years of age he was employed as a pastry cook for the landscape painter Augustino Tassi, whose apprentice he soon became. He traveled in Italy and France, and returned to settle permanently in Rome by 1627. Under the patronage of Pope Urban VIII he rapidly rose to fame. His poetic treatment of landscape raised this subject matter to eminence alongside the more esteemed religious and historical genres. Claude's paintings became so popular and widely imitated that, in order to avoid forgeries, he began to record his compositions in a notebook of drawings (Duke of Devonshire Coll., Chatsworth). Engravings of them were later made and published as the Liber veritatis (1777). His early works reflect the late mannerist style of Tassi and that of the northerners Brill and Elsheimer. Although he began by using the traditional device of compartmentalized stages—foreground, middleground, and background—in his later landscapes he opened up unlimited vistas, introducing lyrical variations of light and atmosphere. In his later works light was the primary subject. It dissolved forms, drawing the eye into vast panoramas of land and sea. Claude's harbor scenes and views of the Roman countryside exercised a lasting influence on the art of landscape painting. Poussin was indebted to him, as was Richard Wilson, and he was consciously emulated two centuries later by J. M. W. Turner. Claude's work is best represented in England. It can be seen in the National Gallery, London; the Doria Palace, Rome; the Louvre; the Prado; and in many American collections, including the museums of New York City, Boston, Kansas City, St. Louis, and San Francisco.

See L. Mannocci, The Etchings of Claude Lorrain (1988); biography by S. Daniel (1986).

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