Claude Lorrain

French painter, etcher and draftsman (?1604/05 – 1682), active in Italy especially Rome for his entire adult career. Born in the Duchy of Lorrain from where he took his surname.

Claude Lorrain is widely considered to be one of the most prolific and influential landscape painters of his time, producing approximately 250 paintings, 1300 drawings and 44 etchings throughout his career. He became so famous for his idealistic classical landscapes, often set in morning or evening light (his favoured 'poetic' times of day), that from the mid eighteenth to the mid nineteenth century he was often known by his first name, Claude.

Born to Jean and Anne Gellée, minor rural landowners of peasant stock, in the small village of Chamagne, south of Nancy on the borders of France in the then independent Duchy of Lorraine, from which he took his surname. In about 1617 he moved to Italy, where he spent most of his life, initially working as a pastry chef in Rome, then studying in Naples with a German-born landscape painter Goffredo Wals (1590/95-1638/40), before returning to Rome and entering the household of the artist Agostino Tassi (about 1580-1644), where he progressed from domestic servant to studio assistant. After a brief period back in Nancy, Claude remained in Rome from 1627 until his death in 1682.

He rose to fame in the 1630s, gaining recognition for his professionalism and his pictorial style. From about 1635 onwards, Claude recorded every painting in a bound volume, the ‘Liber Veritatis’ (the Book of Truth, now in the British Museum) by copying them freehand in pen and brown ink wash. Claude considered the book as protection against forgery, which his work had already been subject to, and as a stock of pictorial motifs, which enabled him to create unique compositions in future paintings.

Claude made many sketches in the countryside around Rome (the 'Campagna') later integrating these ideas into paintings in his studio. Unlike his paintings his drawings are often very spontaneous and almost impressionistic in style, focussing especially on the play of light on form. He began to etch in 1626 and most of his prints were created before 1641, many of them based on his paintings.
  • Gender
  • Relationship
  • Nationality
  • Born
    1604; 1605
  • Place of birth
    Europe: Western Europe: France: Grand Est: Chamagne
  • Died
  • Place of death
    Europe: Southern Europe: Italy: Rome
  • Cause of death
    Unknown or unrecorded
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