Lines and Colors art blog

Claude Lorrain: The Enchanted Landscape

Claude Lorrain: The Enchanted Landscape
Claude Gellée, also known as Claude Lorrain (from his birthplace, the Duchy of Lorraine, once an independent nation in what it currently northeastern France), or simply as “Claude” (rhymes with “road”), was the most important landscape painter in the 17th century, and one of the most important and influential in the history of the genre.

Though born in France, Claude spent most of his life and career in Rome, where he bacame fascinated with the ruins of the empire and created the genre known as “classical landscape” combining those architectural artifacts with his love of the natural world.

As much as I admire his paintings, it is Claude’s drawings that I find particularly wonderful, particularly those drawn in pen and wash in a manner somewhat similar to Rembrandt’s wonderful landscape drawings.

Claude was also noted as a printmaker. There is a new exhibition at the Städel Museum in Frankfurt that features a broad overview of his career and his work in all three mediums. Claude Lorrain: The Enchanted Landscape is on display until 6 May, 2012.

Unfortunately, the museum’s website doesn’t have a gallery of works from the exhibition, though there is a video on the exhibition page (in German with English subtitles).

There is also a new exhibition at the National Gallery in London that focuses on Claude’s influence on the English Landscape master J.M.W. Turner. Turner Inspired: In the Light of Claude is in display until 5 June, 2012.

The occasion gives me a nice excuse for an update post on Claude, for whom a number of additional internet resources have been added since my previous post.

There are two web exhibits that accompanied previous museum exhibits and feature his drawings: Claude Lorrain: The Painter as Draftsman, Drawings from the British Museum at the Clark Institute in 2007 and Claude Lorrain: The draftsman Studying Nature from the Louvre in 2011.

The latter is particularly of interest for its large reproductions of Claude’s drawings. There is even one in which you can see his perspective construction lines (images above, bottom, with detail, from here).

Claude was known for his intensive outdoor studies in which he strove to capture the light of the landscape for later reproduction in his large studio works, and as such not only influenced Turner’s search for light, but that of the later French Impressionists.

(The images above aren’t necessarily in the exhibition, I just picked them because I like them.)


4 responses to “Claude Lorrain: The Enchanted Landscape”

  1. The part I liked reading in his biography is:
    “By 1633, Claude was so busy that he decided to take on an assistant, the thirteen year-old Gian Domenico Desiderri, and also took on one pupil, Angeluccio, a painter who would go on to be quite successful in his own right.”
    From the home of passionate art lovers
    The fact that he lived during the devastating Thirty Years War(1618-1648)is less gratifying.

  2. Samantha Avatar

    I actually visited the exhibition in Frankfurt less than a month ago. To say the least, it was extremely overwhelming. They included an enormous amount of his watercolor and pencil sketches from Italy, each room of the exhibition included at least 20 of these sketches (and often times more) and then additionally at least one of his larger pieces. I really appreciate Lorraine’s ability to show atmosphere, as well as his handling of the landscape, and people within the landscape. However, as far at the organization of the exhibition, I find it was packed to the brim for such a small space with so many Lorraine’s. I appreciate large spaces that could have the works a bit more spread out, giving the eye a moment to rest, it was a bit like visual overload.

    1. Thanks for the report, Samantha. Sorry to heat they couldn’t organize the space better in Frankfurt, but glad you got to see it. I would love to see the exhibit if I could, particularly the field sketches. I think it’s fascinating how he worked to capture the feeling of light in the landscape and bring it back into his studio work.

  3. Randall Imai Avatar
    Randall Imai

    In his seminal work Towns and Buildings, Steen Eiler Rasmussen credits the landscape paintings of Claude Lorraine as being the basis for the school of landscape design known as naturalist, influencing everybody from Capability Brown to Frederick Law Olmstead.