Claude Lorrain

Claude Lorrain, also known as Claude Gellée, or simply Claude, is famous for his pastoral and antiquarian landscapes. Lorrain is a staple of the Great Museums. So how do you spot him? Look for wide, idealized and usually Italianate landscapes, with small figures in the foreground. Look for ruins. Lorrain loved himself some ruins! He also, as you can see from this painting, loved scenes from antiquity, often at harbors.

Seaport with the Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba (1648) by Claude Lorrain. The National Gallery (London, UK). 

Seaport with the Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba (1648) by Claude Lorrain. The National Gallery (London, UK). 

Look for a scene in the early hours of the morning or at dusk. Those times of the day probably interested Lorrain the most so that he could paint the poetic light effects on the water, for which he often employed a rare, deep blue ultramarine color that was prized during the Renaissance. It’s no accident that Lorrain, although he was a towering figure of the Baroque, used Renaissance pigments. Like his French compatriot Nicholas Poussin, he made his star in Rome. Lorrain went on to inspire countless landscape painters over the coming centuries, including Hubert Robert, who took the beauty found in ruins and decay to new heights. But that’s for next time.