Van Gogh •
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Claude Lorrain, often called simple Claude, was born Claude Gellée in the Duchy of Lorraine but spent almost all his life in Italy where, after 1633,
he was the leading landscapist, working on commissions from popes, cardinals, ambassadors, and kings. During his first years in Rome, he was an apprentice
in the studio of Agostino Tassi, where he worked on large decorations and learned to handle their broad rhythms. He was also considerably influenced by the
Flemish traditions as manifested in the tiny classical landscape paintings of biblical and mythological subjects done by Elsheimer and Bril, both Germans
who worked in Rome. Claude returned to Lorraine in 1625, hoping to make a living there, but went back to Rome in 1626 and never left Italy again.
Until 1640, Claude painted landscapes that are careful in detail and show fairly sharp contrasts of light and shade. Later, probably under the influence
of Poussin (the two artists used to roam the Campagna together, sketching from nature, in their love of
classical antiquity, he began to emphasize spatial composition, achieving a complete balance between masses of trees and of architecture. After 1650 in the full maturity of his style, he brought to his work a serene luminosity of early morning or late afternoon light so that his landscapes extend poetically and idyllically into an ethereal atmosphere. He thus achieved a new kind of landscape in which the classical balance of composition is subtly altered by soft light. Claude and Poussin were among the greatest seventeenth-century landscape painters, and both were important architects of later French artistic traditions, both classical and romantic. Claude, in particular, profoundly influenced later landscapes in France and England, among them Bonington, Constable and Turner; as well as the many English landscape architects of the eighteenth century who were interested in creating "picturesque" effects. Claude's influence is also seen in the works of
Corot and Cezanne, both of whom studied
nature in its various aspects and under different conditions of light.