Claude, Lorraine

, properly Claude Gele'I;, an inimitable landscape painter, was born at Lorraine in 1600, and served an apprenticeship to the trade of a pastry-cook. In the early part of his life he shewed no symptoms of- that astonishing genius, which in his more advanced years attracted the admiration of the world. He was very little | indebted to any master for instruction, except Agostino Tassi, who had been a disciple of Paul Bril, and with great labour taught Claude some of the rules of perspective, and the method of preparing his colours. But although at first be could with difficulty comprehend the rudiments y of the art, yet in the progress of his instructions his rnind seemed to expand; his ideas improved; his imagination became more lively; and with wonderful eagerness he applied himself to his studies. During these he explored the true principles of painting, by an incessant examination of nature, usually studying in the open fields, where he very frequently continued frofn sun-rise till the dusk of the evening. There he sketched whatever he thought beautiful or striking; and every curious tinge of light, on all kinds of objects, he marked in his sketches with a similar colour; from which he gave his landscapes such an appearance of nature and truth, as has rarely been discovered in any artist that ever painted in that style. Sandrart relates, that Claude used to explain to him, as they walked through the fields, the causes of the different appearances of the same prospect at different hours of the day, from the reflections or refractions of light, from dews or vapours, in the evening or morning, with all the precision of a philosopher.

He worked on his pictures with great care, endeavouring to bring them to perfection, by touching them frequently over again; and if any performance did not answer his idea, it was customary with him to alter, to deface, and repaint it again several times over, till it corresponded with that image pictured in his mind. But, whatever struck his imagination, while he observed nature abroad, was so strongly impressed on his memory, that, on his return to work, he never failed to make the happiest use of it. His skies are warm, and full of lustre, and every object is properly illumined. His distances are admirable, and in every part a delightful union and harmony never fail to excite our applause and admiration. His invention is pleasing, his colouring delicate, and his tints have such an agreeable sweetness and variety, as to have been but imperfectly imitated by the best subsequent artists, but were never equalled. He frequently gave an uncommon tenderness to his finished trees, by glazing; and in his large compositions which he painted in fresco, he was so exact, that the distinct species of every tree might readily | be distinguished. Among several of his performances in that manner of painting, one was on the four walls of a magnificent saloon at Rome, belonging to a nobleman named Mutius, the height of the walls being very considerable. On the first side he represented the vestiges of an ancient palace, bounded by a deep grove of trees, incomparably expressed as to the forms, stems, barks, branchings, and foliage; the proportional grandeur of those trees, as well as the length of the grove, were perspectively and beautifully set off by the shrubs and plants with which his ground was diversified; and the eye was pleasingly conducted to the second wall, which seemed, by an artful contrivance and disposition, to be only a continuation of the same scene, the same elevation of the horizontal line being observed through the whole work. On the second side, he shewed an extensive plain interspersed with mountains and falls of water, as also with a variety of trees, plants, travellers, and animals; and this part of the composition was likewise connected with the third wall. In that, the lengthened prospect shewed a sea-port at the foot of some high hills, with a view of the ocean, and vessels labouring amongst the waves, which appeared in violent agitation; and on the fourth wall were represented caverns amongrude rocks, ruins of buildings, and fragments of antique statues; the composition, though divided into so many parts, constituting in the whole but one entire connected prospect, the beauty, truth, and variety of which, the power of language cannot sufficiently represent. As to his figures, if he painted them himself, they are very indifferent; though Sandrart assures us, that he spent a great deal of time and labour in practising to design them; that he drew for some years in the academy at Rome, after living models, as well as after statues; and that he took much more pains in endeavouring to form his hand to draw figures correctly, than to perfect himself in landscape, in which he was confessedly superior to all. And he was so conscious of his deficiency in figures, that he usually engaged other artists who were eminent to paint them for him; of which number were Courtois, and Philippo Laura. His pictures are very rare, especially such as are undamaged; and those are at this time so valued, that no price, however great, is thought to be superior to their merit. There are some of uncommon excellence in this country; and a few years ago the vast price of 6000 | guineas was given for two of them. In order to avoid a repetition of the same subject, and also to detect such copies of his works as might be injurious to his fame by being sold for originals, it was his custom to draw (in a paper book prepared for his purpose) the designs of all those pictures which were transmitted to different countries; and on the back of the drawings he wrote the name of the person who had been the purchaser. That book, which he titled “Libro di Verita,” is now in the possession of the duke of Devonshire. For his amusement Claude etched a set of twenty-eight middling-sized landscapes, lengthways, from his own compositions. They are very slight, but very spirited, and abundantly testify the hand of the master. De Piles says he died in 1678, but all other writers place his death in 1682. 1

1 D’Argenville, Pilkington. —Strutt.