French painter who worked in Rome. One of the leading classical painters of the 17th century, he painted landscapes in a distinctive, luminous style that had a great impact on late 17th- and 18th-century taste. In his paintings insignificant figures (mostly mythological or historical) are typically lost in great expanses of poetic scenery, as in The Enchanted Castle (1664; National Gallery, London).
The poetic sense of wonder in a legendary land is seen in such works as this one, which inspired the poet John Keats, or in the great Seaports of the National Gallery, London, and the Louvre, Paris. The duality between realist and dreamer may be seen in the comparison of these with the direct drawings from nature such as the View on the Tiber.
Unlike his friend and fellow countryman in Rome, Poussin, he was ‘classical’ only in the implication of subject and not in style. To a simple and little varying scheme of composition he added picturesque irregularities of form, and was a founder of that ‘picturesque’ tradition which, in 18th-century England, reproduced ‘Claudes’ in nature – in the landscape gardening of wealthy art-lovers' estates.
Orphaned as a child, Claude is thought to have lived for a while with his brother, a woodcarver, in Freiburg, and is said to have worked in his early days as a pastry cook. Travelling merchants, possibly relatives, took the boy to Italy, where he found employment in artists' studios. He may have studied under an obscure view-painter, Gottfried Waals, in Naples, and in Rome was servant-assistant to Agostino Tassi, the landscape painter and former pupil of Paul Bril.
His art was to some extent based on the formulas of Adam Elsheimer, Bril, and Tassi, and there are threads which link it with the landscape of Domenichino, but salient facts are that Claude was a close and original student of nature and a northerner, the more deeply impressed for that reason by the ruins and ancient associations of Rome and its environs.
He made one journey back to his native country 1625, but at the age of 27 settled in Rome. Not long afterwards he attracted the attention of Cardinal Bentivoglio, who procured him an introduction to Pope Urban VIII, and a commission for two paintings: La Fête villageoise, and Un Port de mer au soleil couchant (both Louvre, Paris). Claude's paintings were highly esteemed and in great demand among patrons resident in Rome, and visiting connoisseurs, French and English. His pictorial record of his compositions, the Liber Veritatis/Book of Truth (engraved by Earlom 1777), seems to have been as much a reference list of works that had gone abroad as a list of authentic pictures that could expose forgery. In landscape Claude was unequalled in rendering the radiance of a morning or evening sky, though less adept in figure painting, using other artists for the incidental figures in his compositions. His heroic landscapes are poetic rather than formal and tend to be constant in compositional method: a middle-distance with small features such as a bridge or farm, a far-distance showing mountains or rivers, and a foreground with a large mass of trees to one side counterbalanced by a smaller group at the other.
Claude Gellée (1600-1682), Fr. landscape painter. “Lorrain” is not the artist's surname, as sometimes supposed, but represents Lorraine, the region
French landscape painter and draughtsman. Little is known about his personal life. He went to Rome as a youth, and is thought...
He was one of the most important landscape painters of the 17th century. He was from Lorraine, but he went to Rome at an early age...