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Claude Lorrain

French Painter

Claude Lorrain Photo
Movements and Styles: The Baroque, Naturalism

Born: 1604-05 - Chamagne, Duchy of Lorraine, Vosges (now France)

Died: November 21 or 23, 1682 - Rome, Papal States

Summary of Claude Lorrain

Claude Lorrain made paintings in which the sun, earth, and water seem to reverberate with emotion. His name is inseparable from seventeenth-century landscape painting, his works characterized by a Baroque classicism which is especially evident in his depiction of antique architecture, and his emphasis on dramatic contrasts of light and shade. More often than not, Claude's works were paeans to the beauty of nature rather than portrayals of grand human virtues - as was more common for painters of his style and generation - but they were nonetheless generally representations of historical or mythical scenes. At a time when landscape painting was still far from being considered a significant genre, he thus laid the foundations for the historical landscape tradition that would come to dominate French and English painting for at least 150 years.

Key Ideas

Claude Lorrain infused the tradition of idealized landscape painting, learned from predecessors and contemporaries such as Annibale Carracci and Nicolas Poussin, with an unprecedented empirical accuracy. He spearheaded a new method of landscape painting, working outdoors from detailed observation, and blending classical idealism with naturalistic detail to produce work almost more beautiful than nature itself.
Claude's depiction of ancient ruins in his paintings has a double-impact, at once reminding us of the passage of time and of the endurance of the structures, thus recalling the medieval concept of memento mori (a living reminder of death). A powerful embrace of the ephemeral and the eternal is at work in these paintings.
As much as Claude expressed his angst about the passage of time and the temporal nature of man-made things, he was nonetheless one of the first artists to understand this historical significance of his work, and strove to preserve its history through an orderly documentation of his oeuvre in the Liber Veritatis ('Book of Truth').
Claude not only made pioneering advancements in the portrayal of natural light-source, but was also one of the first artists to pay close attention to sunrises and sunsets in his work. The iconic seascapes in which he explored these effects were inspirational for nineteenth-century English landscape painters such as J.M.W. Turner.
Claude Lorrain Photo

Claude Gellée was born in the small village of Chamagne, in the Vosges region of the Duchy of Lorraine, in north-eastern France. His tombstone is inscribed with the year "1600" to indicate the year of his birth, though historians have suggested that a more likely date is 1604 or 1605. Living for most of his life in Italy, he became known as Claude le Lorrain (Claude of Lorraine), and the name has stuck; English speakers now generally refer to him as Claude Lorrain, or simply as Claude.

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