Movement: Baroque, Renaissance
“Seaport at Sunset,” 1639
“Seaport with the Embarkation of St. Ursula,” 1641
“The Trojan Women Setting Fire to Their Fleet,” 1643
“The Disembarkation of Cleopatra at Tarsus,” 1643
“The Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba,” 1648
“View of Delphi with a Procession,” 1673
“Ascanius Shooting the Stag of Sylvia,” 1682
Claude Lorrain is a French painter who rose to fame during the 17th century, becoming one of the most accomplished Baroque painters of the age. He is most renowned for his innovations with respect to the depiction of light and the centrality of landscapes in his works. Little is known with complete accuracy about his life, but Lorrain is acknowledged the world over as one of the most important artists of the Pre-Romantic era.
Early Life and Training
Claude Lorrain was born either in 1600 (as his gravestone claims) or a few years later (as his contemporaries reported) in Chamagne in the Duchy of Lorraine. He was born Claude Gellee to Anne Padose and Jean Gellee, and had four other siblings. One of his biographers state that Lorrain was orphaned in 1612 and sent to live with an older brother Jean, an artist who taught him the basics of the trade. He traveled to Naples to work under Goffredo Wals, and then to Rome to study under Agostino Tassi.
Another biographer, however, claims that Lorrain was a bad student and he came to Rome because he was apprenticed to a baker; his access to Tassi was first as a cook in his house, and then as a student. Either way, most biographers agree that he was with Goffredo between 1620 and 1622, and with Tassi from between 1622 and 1625.
For the rest of the 1620s, Lorrain traveled in Europe, working on his technique and visiting areas he might study. He lived in Bavaria, Marseille, Venice and Genoa over the course of his travels; one biographer even claims he tried to train under Claude Derouet in Lorraine but didn't stay long at his studio. He returned to Rome in 1627, and settled in a house there. By this time, he was already drawing and sketching outdoors, paying closer and closer attention to the interaction of light and landscape during twilight, and even painting studies in oils on the spot.
Lorrain began to receive more and more prestigious commissions over the course of the 1630s. His most famous commissions till this point were a commission from the French ambassador to Rome and the King of Spain. However, in the mid-1630s, he received a crucial commission from Cardinal Bentivoglio, who was so impressed with his paintings, that he recommended Lorrain to Pope Urban VIII.
Lorrain’s paintings for the Pope secured his reputation and his status as an artist and he began to receive more prestigious commissions, both from within and without Italy. Around this time, despite possessing a merely functional literacy, Lorrain began to catalogue his works and his sales.
Lorrain’s most treasured contributions to the history of painting has been the depiction and use of sunlight in his images, as well as the primacy of the physical landscape. At the time, landscape painting was not considered a particularly worthwhile genre of painting. Unless it provided the backdrop for religious scenes; of which there were many during the Counter-Reformation of the 17th century. However, his dedication to the craft of painting landscapes had a deeply positive effect on generations who succeeded him. In fact, the great Romantic artists of the 18th and 19th centuries used Lorrain's depictions of nature to launch their own experiments with representations of the power of nature, the pastoral landscape and the place of humanity.
In 1663, Lorrain feel gravely ill because of his gout. Though he recovered eventually, he painted less and less. Nevertheless, he completed some of his most important works during this period, including “Ascanius Shooting the Stag of Sylvia,” his last painting ever. Lorrain died in 1682, and his remains now interred at the church of San Luigi dei Francesci, the official church of France in Rome.
1600 - Born in Chamagne, France
1620-22 - Apprenticed to Goffredo Wals, Naples
1622/23-25 - Apprenticed to Agostino Tassi, Rome
1625-27 - Travels in France and Italy
1627 - Settles in Rome
1658 - Adopts an orphan, Agnese
1682 - Dies in Rome
2008 - Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, US
2009 - National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh
2009 - Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
2009 - J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
2009 - National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
2011 - Musée du Louvre, Paris
2011 - Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, Oxford
2012 - Timken Museum of Art, San Diego
2012 - National Gallery, London
2012 - Chatsworth, Bakewell, UK
2012 - Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, US
2013 - Israel Museum, Jerusalem
2013 - Alte Pinakothek, Munich
2013 - Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, US
2014 - National Gallery of Victoria International, Melbourne
2014 - Kunsthalle Munchen, Munich
2014 - Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
2015 - Frick Art Museum, Pittsburgh
2015 - Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, US
2015 - Jule Collins Smith Museum of Art, Auburn University, US
2016 - Gemäldegalerie, Tiergarten, Germany
Museums / Collections
Alte Pinakothek, Munich
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago
Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery, Birmingham
Detroit Institute of Art
Fine Art Museums of San Francisco, San Francisco
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, UK
State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg
J. Paul Getting Museum, Los Angeles
Kress Foundation Collection, New York
Louvre Museum, Paris
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh
National Gallery, London
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena
Royal Academy of Arts Collection, London
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D. C.
Stadel Museum, Frankfurt
Royal Collection, London
Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut
The Wallace Collection, London
Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid
Wallraf-Richatrz Museum, Cologne
Books / Publications
“Claude Lorrain: Paintings and Drawings” by Werner Schade
“The Etchings of Claude Lorrain” by Lino Mannocci
“Claude Lorrain: the Painter as Draftsman” by Richard Rand
“Claude Lorrain” by Sabine Cotte
“Claude Lorrain: 1600-82” by Diane H Russell
“Claude Lorrain” by Helen Langdon
“Claude Lorrain” by Walter F Friedlander