|Claude Lorrain, Self Portrait
Claude Lorrain was a French artist born in 1600 in Champagne, Vosges. Lorrain’s youth is disputed – two biographers have recounted the first twenty years of his life differently. According to his first biographer, Balducci, after Lorrain’s parents’ death, Lorrain lived with an older brother who practiced art. It was from him that Lorrain learned the basics of drawing.
The second biographer, Sandrart, recounts that Lorrain became apprentice to a pastry baker in his youth. As an apprentice, Lorrain travelled to Rome, where he was employed by Tassi. Tassi later taught Lorrain drawing and painting.
Although the first years of Lorrain’s life are uncertain, it is clear that he eventually settled in Rome. He later became one of the earliest artists to focus on landscapes, grasping inspiration from the Italian countryside, where he spent most of his adult life.
By the late 1620’s, Lorrain was particularly enthusiastic about painting the outdoors. His first dated painting was Landscape with Cattle and Peasants in 1629 (shown below).
|Landscape with Cattle and Peasants (1629)
Lorrain’s work is inspired by Classical themes - many of his pieces include Classical ruins and religious connotations. Classicism was a movement centered around perfection and elegance (Art Movements). Landscape painting, especially ideal landscape painting, as Lorrain practiced, is a style that attempts to create an item of nature that is more beautiful than the reality (Kitson).
In addition to being one of the earliest landscape painters, Lorrain was also one of the first artists to include sunlight as a strong aspect of his landscapes. Lorrain is well recognized for “[using] the sun as a means of illuminating a whole picture for the first time in art.” (Kitson). His technique and style went on to influence many Neoclassical artists in the following centuries.
|Study of Trees (c. 1635)
One aspect of Lorrain’s work that particularly struck me was his use of study drawings or paintings. I had personally never heard of the concept before this class, and was fascinated at seeing them used by artists more than 300 years ago. One of his landscape study paintings is pictured on the left.
Despite his unclear early years, Lorrain became a renowned landscape artist – one of the first landscape artists of the time. His use of Classicism and the sun went on to influence future genres, and his work is still recognized today for its novel technique.
When Lorrain’s career began, landscape painting was yet to be received as a specially popular or recognized genre. Lorrain, along with several other artists of the seventeenth century, contributed to the elevated status of landscapes in the hierarchy of genres.
|Landscape with Aeneas at Delos (1672)