Thursday, April 2, 2015

Claude Lorrain

oil on canvas
102.9 x 134 cm
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, USA

The painting is divided into three principal planes. In the foreground, three people are crossing a river accompanied by a group of animals. Behind them, hidden among the vegetation, we can see the silhouette of a castle. And in the background there is an undefined landscape, illuminated by the light of sunrise. The whole scene conveys a classical serenity. Although the foreground and middle ground have darkened, the horizon preserves its characteristic luminosity. Once again Claude used the countryside around Rome - the Campagna - as his direct source of inspiration for the poetic landscape depicted in this canvas. 

Claude Lorrain (c.1604-1682), byname of Claude Gellee, born in France and raised in Italy, was a French artist of the Baroque era whose special contribution was the poetic rendering of light, best known for, and one of the greatest masters of, ideal-landscape painting, an art form that seeks to present a view of nature more beautiful and harmonious than nature itself. The secret of the special effect of depth in his paintings lies in his perfection of proportions and perspective. Not even his most talented imitators, of whom there would be myriads in Europe and America in the centuries to come, were able to match it.

His works are classical landscapes, idealized visions of a lost past, evoking praises of an ancient perfection. He was not interested in an accurate representation of a specific place, but in praising the beauty of nature and the grandeur of the ancient world. In his works is quite usual the presence of human figures, they are insignificant when compared to the natural surroundings.

His style inspired -directly or indirectly- many other later painters, such as Van Goyen and Van Ruysdael in the Netherlands, Corot and Rousseau in France, Turner and Constable in England, or even the first painters of the Hudson River School in America.