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Subject: Excerpt Of History
Date: Tue, 23 Nov 2004 07:03:10 EST



Claude Lorrain

Claude Lorrain (Lorraine, c1604 - Rome, November 23, 1682) was a French
painter considered to be one of the greatest landscape painters.
He was born of very poor parents at the village of Chamagne in Lorraine. When
it was discovered that he made no progress at school, he was apprenticed, it
is commonly said, to a pastry-cook, but this is extremely dubious. At the
age of twelve, being left an orphan, he went to live at Freiburg on the Rhine
with an elder brother, Jean Gele, a wood-carver of moderate merit, and under
him he designed arabesques and foliage. He afterwards rambled to Rome to seek
a livelihood; but from his clownishness and ignorance of the language, he
failed to obtain permanent employment. He next went to Naples, to study
landscape painting under Godfrey Waals, a painter of much repute. With him he
remained two years; then he returned to Rome, and was domesticated until April 1625
with another landscape-painter, Augustin Tassi, who hired him to grind his
colours and to do all the household drudgery.
His master, hoping to make Claude serviceable in some of his greatest works,
advanced him in the rules of perspective and the elements of design. Under
his tuition the mind of Claude began to expand, and he devoted himself to
artistic study with great eagerness. He exerted his utmost industry to explore the
true principles of painting by an incessant examination of nature; and for
this purpose he made his studies in the open fields, where he very frequently
remained from sunrise till sunset, watching the effect of the shifting light
upon the landscape. He generally sketched whatever he thought beautiful or
striking, marking every tinge of light with a similar colour; from these
sketches he perfected his landscapes.
Leaving Tassi, he made a tour in Italy, France and a part of Germany,
including his native Lorraine, suffering numerous misadventures by the way. Karl
Dervent, painter to the duke of Lorraine, kept him as assistant for a year; and
he painted at Nancy the architectural subjects on the ceiling of the
Carmelite church. He did not, however, relish this employment, and in 1627 returned
to Rome. Here, painting two landscapes for Cardinal Bentivoglio, he earned the
protection of Pope Urban VIII and from about 1637 he rapidly rose into
celebrity. Claude was acquainted not only with the facts, but also with the laws
of nature; and the German painter Joachim von Sandrart relates that he used to
explain, as they walked together through the fields, the causes of the
different appearances of the same landscape at different hours of the day, from
the reflections or refractions of light, or from the morning and evening dews
or vapours, with all the precision of a natural philosopher. He elaborated his
pictures with great care; and if any performance fell short of his ideal, he
altered, erased and repainted it several times over.
His skies are aerial and full of lustre, and every object harmoniously
illumined. His distances and colouring are delicate, and his tints have a
sweetness and variety till then unexampled. He frequently gave an uncommon tenderness
to his finished trees by glazing. His figures, however, are very
indifferent; but he was so conscious of his deficiency in this respect, that he usually
engaged other artists to paint them for him, among whom were Courtois and
Filippo Lauri. Indeed, he was wont to say that he sold his landscapes and gave
away his figures. In order to avoid a repetition of the same subject, and also
to detect the very numerous spurious copies of his works, he made tinted
outline drawings (in six paper books prepared for this purpose) of all those
pictures which were transmitted to different countries; and on the back of each
drawing he wrote the name of the purchaser. These books he named Libri di
yenta. This valuable work has been engraved and published, and has always been
highly esteemed by students of the art of landscape. Claude, who had suffered
much from gout, died in Rome at the age of eighty-two, on the 21st (or
perhaps the 23rd) of November 1682, leaving his wealth, which was considerable,
between his only surviving relatives, a nephew and an adopted daughter (?niece).
Many choice specimens of his genius may be seen in the National Gallery,
London and in the Louvre; the landscapes in the Altieri and Colonna palaces in
Rome are also of especial celebrity. A list has been printed showing no less
than 92 examples in the various public galleries of Europe. He himself regarded
a landscape which he painted in the Villa Madama, being a cento of various
views with great abundance and variety of leafage, and a composition of
"Esther and Ahasuerus," as his finest works; the former he refused to sell,
although Clement IX offered to cover its surface with gold pieces. He etched a
series of twenty-eight landscapes, fine impressions of which are greatly prized.
Full of amenity, and deeply sensitive to the graces of nature, Claude was long
deemed the prince of landscape painters, and he must always be accounted a
prime leader in that form of art, and in his day a great enlarger and refiner
of its province.
Claude was a man of amiable and simple character, very kind to his pupils, a
patient and unwearied worker; in his own sphere of study, his mind was stored
(as we have seen) with observation and knowledge, but he continued an
unlettered man till his death. Famous and highly patronized though he was in all
his later years, he seems to have been very little known to his brother
artists, with the single exception of Sandrart. This painter is the chief direct
authority for the facts of Claude's life (Academia Artis Pictoriae, 1683);
Baldinucci, who obtained information from some of Claude's immediate survivors,
relates various incidents to a different effect (Notizie dei professoni del
disegno).



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