An artist's drawings give us a wonderful window into the rest of his or her work Sometimes they look entirely different from an artist's finished paintings Old Master Drawings are invaluable because they alloy us to get closer to an artist than a finished painting can. We can see the artist at work exploring ideas. working out technical problems. setting things up for a translation into oils and canvas. In his book on the relationship between Art and Life, The Marble Faun, Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote of Old Masters Drawings "this hasty rudeness made the sketches only more valuable, because the artist seemed to have bestirred himself at the pinch of the moment, snatching up whatever material vas nearest, so as to seize the first glimpse of an idea that might vanish in the twinkling of an eye. Thus, by the spell of a creased, soiled and discolored scrap of paper you were enabled to steal close to an old master, and watch him in the effervescence of his genius." 1
Like the other Old Masters that we have studied, Claude Lorrain had his own special method of use for his drawings, a method that allows us to "watch him in the effervescence of his genius" In this paper I will discuss Claude's use of drawings focusing on two drawings in the collection of the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., The River Landscape (c. 1635-1638, pen and ink: with wash on paper), a preparatory study, and The Rest on the Flight into Egypt (1682, pen and ink with wash on paper ), an independent drawing. and the relationship of these drawings to finished paintings. I will also explore the relationship between Claude's preparatory drawings and the drawings that mane up Claude's Liber Veritatis.
Claude Gellee was born in the province of Lorraine in France during the first five years of the 17th century, the exact date of his birth in unknown. Apprenticed as a young boy to a pastry chef, for the most part poorly educated, he left France sometime between 1613 and 1623 for Rome. where he spent the rest of his life.3 He studied there with two fresco painters, Goffredo Wals and Agostino Tassi. 4 Claude returned to France only once. in 1625 to take part in work on a series of frescos that had been commissioned there.5 He returned to Rome in 1626 when one of his fellow workers fell from the scaffolding and he abandoned France and fresco painting as well. 6 Claude died in Rome in 1682 following a long. prolific and prosperous career The other details of his life are extremely sketchy. as the only writings of Claude's to survive are three letters written in a mixture of French and Italian.7
Claude was a landscape artist. It is important to note that landscape was not yet a subject in its own right in Italy for finished paintings There was no market for paintings whose subjects were merely landscapes. The overwhelming majority of Claude's paintings were seaport scenes or pastoral landscapes that contain either Biblical or mythic narratives. But it is landscape that is the true subject. These stories merely provided an excuse for Claude to explore landscape subjects Throughout his long career Claude never attempted any other theme but that of landscape.8 Within the landscape genre he focused most on light and how light and how light effects the forms in a landscape.
The narrative elements almost always appear in the foreground of Claude's paintings at such a small scale that they are almost overwhelmed by the majestic landscapes against which they are set In fact, Claude had so little interest in the figures or narrative elements that he sometimes hired other artists to paint the small figures into his finished compositions.9 Claude also consistently revisits the narrative subjects whose details alloy them to be placed logically in a landscape setting. Consequently there are literally tens of canvases depicting The Rest on the Flight into Egypt , The Embarkation of Saint Ursula and The Marriage of Issac and Rebecca. The figures from which these paintings take their titles serve merely as a sense of scale for the majestic landscapes against which they are set.10
The Embarkation of Saint Ursula (1641, oil on canvas, National Gallery, London) is a wonderful example of this The painting. on a grand scale depicts the departure of Saint Ursula, setting off to do missionary work. But the figures that Claude includes are foils for his real subject, the golden late afternoon sunlight and how it plays across the water of the harbor from which Saint Ursula is sailing, and the way this light is diffused through the atmosphere, softening the solid forms.
Another example is the Pastoral Landscape ( 1638, oil on canvas, collection of Lord Bute). Like The Embarkation of Saint Ursula , there are figures in the Pastoral Landscape, but again they serve more as indicators of scale than as the actual subject matter of the painting Claude concentrates instead on the play of light through the trees and the atmosphere that this light creates in the landscape.
Many of Claude's preparatory drawings belie his interest in light and shadow and the natural elements of landscape River Landscape is one such drawing. The River Landscape is a drawing from nature and a preparatory study for the Pastoral Landscape mentioned above. In it, a number of elements that appear with frequency in both Claude's paintings and drawings can be found. These include large, leafy trees, a three arched bridge over. and a large, dead tree branch The two figures that appear in the right foreground of Pastoral Landscape are sketched in as stick figures in the right foreground of the River Landscape.
The drawing is spontaneous - one gets a sense of the effervescence of which Hawthorne spoke The strokes of Claude's pen are long and unevenly spaced. They convey a sense of form without the studied feeling created by short, precisely measured strokes Claude's use of wash. which is confined to the trees in this drawing, also suggests that this is a spontaneous drawing from nature Claude uses the wash to give a sense of the sunlight playing through the trees creating a pattern of light and dappled shadows on the ground The wash used in the drawing creates a sense of atmosphere that echoes the light effects in his finished canvases
Contemporaries wrote that Claude would often lie in a field for hours at a time, studying the way that the appearance of an object changed as the sunlight changed with the passing of the day. a technique that suggests Monet and his many studies of Rouen Cathedral.l1 River Landscape may have been one of these drawings. Claude concentrates on one part in particular. He focuses his attention on the play of light on the trees in the drawing. He uses wash only on the trees, and the wash is supposed to communicate the effect of light through the trees. There is, for example, no wash used on the water. In fact, one might mistake the river area for a field if not for the title of the drawing and the bridge in the background. There is no indication of light on the water, or for that matter, on any part of the composition except for the trees.
There are at least five other drawings that contributed to Claude's preparation for the Pastoral Landscape, the majority of which were executed in his studio.12 This is a fairly typical number of preparatory studies for Claude, but it should also be noted that Claude was also doing something else completely unique with a quite different type of drawings, which had a direct effect on his preparatory work.
From some time around 1635 until the end of his life in 1682, Claude kept a book that he called the Liber Veritatis, Latin for Book of Truth.13 The Liber Veritatis was a collection of drawings in the form of a sketchbook. The book was specially made for Claude with a scheme of alternating pages, four blue pages followed by four white, which repeated in this manner.14 The pages measured 8 and a half inches by 11 and a half inches, and at the time of Claude's death it contained 195 drawings, all of which are now housed at the British Museum in London.15 Claude enjoyed a highly successful and lucrative career in his own lifetime. His patrons included Popes and other high ranking officials of the Catholic Church, as well as members of Italian, French, and British noble families.16 Claude wanted to create a type of document of his finished works so that no one could forge a painting in his style. as he had many imitators. 17 The Liber Veritatis was intended to protect him from forgeries.18 The drawings in it are copies in pen and ink, washes and charcoals of his finished paintings. Claude signed his name on the back of these drawings and included either the name of the patron who had commissioned the work or the city to which the painting was being sent.19 In this way, he could insure that his work could not be copied and passed off as an original. The Liber Veritatis also served another purpose. It was something that Claude could present to perspective patrons in order to give them an idea of his finished work.20 It has also presented present day Claude scholars a wonderful record of his work over a period of more than fifty years complete with dates that allow for a study of his development of his style and a record of his patrons as well.21 This is important because Claude, who, as mentioned above, was practically uneducated, left only three letters when he died.
It is interesting to note the stylistic differences between the drawings in the Liber Veritatis and the studies from nature that Claude produced. Although they have been executed in identical media, the stylistic differences are noticeable. The drawings in the Liber Veritatis lack the spontaneity of the nature studies. They are precise and measured. exact copies down to the fine details of the completed paintings. The pen lines are short and carefully spaced in order to accurately represent the forms in the paintings Wash is used throughout the drawings in the Liber Veritatis, just as light Pervaded the entirety of the finished canvases.
Claude's use of the drawings in the Liber Veritatis did not end with their documentary properties. In his lifetime, Claude produced thousands of drawings, which he did not want to part with - even in his own lifetime they were sought after by patrons.22 But Claude used all of his drawings and he did not vent to give any of them up. A contemporary of Claude's wrote: "M. Claude has some old drawings, and he does not want to part with them, saying that he uses them."23 Claude used all his drawings as a way to study and prepare for paintings. The same elements show up repeatedly either in his drawings or paintings, proving that he used the same drawings over and over again for various finished works. He did not use them just once.
This is evident in three drawings which are part of the Liber Veritatis and which relate directly to the River Landscape drawing. They are Landscape with Brigands Attacking a Group of Peasants with their Flocks (c.1638-1639, pen and ink with wash and paper, LV 34), Pastoral Landscape ( 1644, pen and ink with wash on paper, LV 85), and Pastoral Landscape (1644-1645, pen and ink with wash on paper, LV 87). Elements of River Landscape can be found in each of them, especially the three arch bridge and trees which appear in all three. These works were completed up to ten years after the Claude sketched the River Landscape. but it is evident that Claude is not only looking back to it, but that he is using the drawings of the Liber Veritatis as preparatory drawings in themselves. Although they were created to document finished paintings, Claude is looking to them when he attempts new paintings as if they were preparatory work. His finished works become part of a great integrated whole. They are part of the ongoing artistic process as Claude continuously reworks his vision of nature. The art historian Susan Cotte wrote in her book about Claude that his landscape's "impact stems from a total. internal perception. a fresh vision of the universe".24 The same could be said about Claude's creative process. Whether a drawing from nature, a preparatory drawing executed in the studio, a finished painting or a drawing of a painting, Claude uses each piece of work to explore nature, and more specifically, the play of beautiful, soft light over the forms in nature. Nature is his continuous subject and Claude's exploration of it is at the crux of almost every work that he executed. Each piece of his work was another step in the process that borrowed from all that had proceeded it in every media. Which explains why elements from drawings appear in paintings, and forms from paintings re-emerge in drawings. Claude integrated his art.
This technique is underlined by his repetition of subject matter, sometimes tens of times. He would return to the same Biblical stories or scenes from mythology Reworking them, changing them slightly, but always placing them and concentrating on the overpowering landscape. River Landscape, with its tell-tale elements of Claude's artistic vocabulary and the appearance of these elements in other preparatory drawings, paintings and drawings from the Liber Veritatis is a perfect example of this phenomena.
Marcel Roethlisberger. who meticulously cataloged both Claude's paintings and drawings expresses doubt about the authenticity of River Landscape in his book on Claude's drawings. Roethlisberger notes a "particular hardness" in the lines of the drawing that he feels are not consistent with Claude's style.25 However, other art historians disagree with Roethlisberger, including H. Diana Russell, who writes that Roethlisberger's "reservations seem unwarranted.26 Many other preparatory drawings from nature by Claude from the same period can be cited which are of similar style. including Trees with Rocks by the Water ( 1635) and View of the Tiber from Monte Mario (c.1640), Both are loose and fluid, with liberal use of wash, which Claude used boldly to express "form, pattern and movement". 27 Therefore, it seems that it would be a mistake to conclude that the River Landscape is not authentic.
Claude's independent drawings express his love of drawing and his continued fascination with nature as a subject. The Rest on the Flight into Egypt ( 1682, pen and ink with light gray and blue washes, chalk and white heightening on blue paper, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.) is one such drawing. Executed in the last months of his life, this drawing was not intended as a preparatory work for a painting. In fact, the last time that Claude had treated this subject in oils was in 1676, six years earlier.28 The purpose of the drawing therefore, was Claude's own continued exploration of his lifelong subject - nature. The Rest on the Flight into Egypt has a wonderful atmospheric quality, and there are fine gradations in the color of the wash used on the sky. Like so many of Claude's other works. it has a low horizon line that allows for an expanse of sky and a creation of a deep recession into a pastoral landscape.
Interestingly enough, he included the narrative element, one that he had returned to time and again throughout his career. This shows that even though we think of Claude as a landscape artist working inside the boundaries of a society that did not embrace landscape art in its own right, requiring him to include figures and give his works a narrative element. Claude evidently did not see himself this way Even though he hired others to paint figures into his finished compositions. he obviously conceptualized his works with a narrative element, as he included this narrative in drawings that were for his own private use, like this independent drawing of The Rest.
The drawing is very soft. it does not have all of the crispness of other earlier drawings. Russell and Roethlisberger attribute this to a "faltering in the artist's handling" due to his age and illness.29 I am not sure that this is entirely true. First, the media that Claude used, especially the blue washes on blue paper mate the drawing look very soft. More significantly, the same technique that Claude used in all of his other drawings can be seen in this version of The Rest. The trees in the middle and backgrounds of the drawing are treated the same way that the trees in the River Landscape were There are parts of the trees which are clearly delineated with the white heightening, including the truck and branches. Wash has been applied over this to give the sense of sunlight hitting the trees and creating patterns of shadows and sunlight on the ground. just the way that Claude used wash in the River Landscape. In both drawings the wash blots out the some of the finer details of the trees as Claude attempted to create a sense of sunlight and atmosphere.
Furthermore, the figures that appear in the foreground of The Rest on the Flight into Egypt, the Holy Family, two angels and a donkey, are drawing with great detail. The features of their faces can be seen, as well as folds in their draperies. There is no indication that these figures were not drawn by Claude himself. Therefore, if he could render the figures with meticulous detail, it seems unlikely that his control over wash could have suffered very much. It may be that his style had changed somewhat. An earlier drawing Christ and the Magdalene ( 1681, chalk, pen blue and gray washes and white heightening, The British Museum, London), a preparatory study for a painting of the same subject, shows the use of the same materials as well as the same softer style
Claude offers us a wonderful example of the different ways in which an artist uses drawings, and the degree to which they not only contribute to finished works of art, but how integral drawings are to an artist's creative process. Claude used drawings in paintings and turned around and used ideas from paintings in his drawings. Claude used his drawings in many different ways. The many types that he used, from preparatory studies to drawings from nature to independent drawings to the Liber Veritatis, show that he used all of them in his life long pursuit - to record what he saw around him in nature.
1 Hawthorne, Nathaniel The Marble Faun, Penguin Boots, New York, NY, 1990, p.165
2 Wintermute, Alan, ed., Claude to Corot: The Development of Landscape Painting in France, Colnaghi, New York, NY, 1990, p.l6 3 H. Diana Russell, Claude Lorrain 1600 - 1682, George Braziller, New York, NY, 1982, p.49 4 Ibid, p.48 5 Ibid, p.48 6 Ibid, p.5 7 Ibid, p.4 8 Cotte, Sabine.,translated by Helen Sebba, Claude Lorrain, George Braziller, New York, NY, p.4l 9 Hartt, Frederick, Art: A History of Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, N.J. and Harry N. Abrams Inc., New York, NY p 71 10 Ibid., p.714 11 Russell, p. 54 12 Ibid., p.237 l 3 Kitson, Michael, Claude Lorrain: Liber Veritatis, British Museum Publications Limited, London, p.9 14 Ibid, p.10 15 Ibid, p.10 16 Cotte, p. 26 17 Kitson, p.7 18 Ibid, p.7 19 Ibid, p.12 20 Cotte, p. 66 2l Kitson, p.9 22 Cotte, p. 63 23 Ibid, p.63 24 Cotte, p.48 25 Roethlisberger, Marcel, Claude Lorrain. The Drawings Volume I, Berkeley, CA, 1968, p. 232 26 Russell, p.237 27 Wintermute, p.18 28 Kitson, p.l70 29 Russell, p 297
Cotte, Susan, translated by Helen Sebba, Claude Lorrain, George Braziller, New York, NY, 1971
Hartt, Frederick, Art: A History of Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, Prentice-Hall, Inc.. Englewood Cliffs, N.J. and Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York, NY, 1989
Hawthorne, Nathaniel, The Marble Faun, Penguin Books, New York, NY, 1990
Kitson. Michael, Claude Lorrain: Liber Veritatis, British Museum Publications Limited, London. 1978
Roethlisberger, Marcel, Claude Lorrain: The Drawings, Volumes I and II, Berkeley, CA, 1968
Roethlisberger. Marcel, Claude Lorrain: The Paintings, Volumes I and II, Hacker Art Books, New York, NY, 1979
Russell, H. Diane, Claude Lorrain 1600 - 1682, George Braziller, New York, NY, 1982
Wintermute, Alan. ed., Claude to Corot: The Development of Landscape Painting in France, Colnaghi, New York, NY, 1990