Claude Lorraine (properly Lorrain), a landscape painter, whose real name was Claude Gelee, born in Lorraine in 1600, died in Rome, Nov. 21, 1682. He was left an orphan at 12 years of age, displayed little intelligence in his youth, and was first made acquainted with the pencil in the home of his brother, a carver of wood at Freiburg. Subsequently he went to Pome, where he devoted himself to his profession. He is supposed to have studied about two years under Godfrey Waals, during which time he became acquainted with architectural drawing and perspective. Afterward he received instruction in painting from Agostino Tassi, and about 1625 ho left Rome for a pilgrimage to the shrine of Loreto, and thence set out on a tour through Italy, spent some time in Venice, and returned to France by the way of Tyrol and Germany. He was soon employed by the duke of Lorraine, who invited him to his house and made him very advantageous offers. After a short time he returned to Italy, and established himself in Rome, where he found ample employment. One of his earliest patrons was Cardinal Benti-voglio, who presented him to Pope Urban VIII., and for whom he painted a number of beautiful works.
He was now only about 30 years of age, but had so thoroughly acquired his art that he was already recognized as one of the great masters. For more than 40 years afterward Claude continued to reside in Italy, and painted until very old. He was never married. A monument was dedicated to him in 1840 in the French church at Rome, and a statue was erected to his memory at Epinal. - Claude's great success caused him to be imitated by a host of painters, whereby a vast number of pictures were palmed upon collectors as his works. In order to detect these spurious productions, and identify his own, he made drawings of such as he was commissioned to paint, which he inscribed with the names of the purchasers. At his death he left six volumes of these drawings, which he called Libridi verita. One set containing 200 sketches is in possession of the duke of Devonshire; they were engraved by Earlom, and published by Boydell under the title of Liber Veritatis. Another is in the British museum. Rome and its environs, its Tiber and Campagna, its stupendous ruins and classic memories, furnished Claude with inexhaustible subjects for his pencil. He would spend whole days in the open air studying nature, and noting every change in the skies, or the lights and shadows of the landscape.
His skies are aerial and full of brilliant effect, and there is a soft atmospheric haze over his scenes. One of his most celebrated landscapes represents a little grove of the Villa Madama, near Rome, for which Pope Clement XI. offered as much gold coin as would be required to cover the surface of the painting. His favorite periods of day were at sunrise and sunset, when objects are robed in the most delicate coloring. His figures, however, are inferior, and he frequently engaged other artists to pencil them for him. England is especially rich in the works of Claude Lorraine; the national gallery of London contains a number of them, two of which, the "St. Ursula" and the "Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba," he probably never surpassed. Four of his finest paintings were taken by Napoleon from the gallery of Cassel to Paris, where they adorned Malmaison. In 1814 the czar Alexander acquired them, and they are now in St. Petersburg.
See Claude Lorraine.