The Enchanted Landscape presents about one hundred and thirty works from all phases of the important French Baroque artist's production. Based on the most recent results of scientific research, the comprehensive exhibition comprises a high-caliber selection of paintings as well as Claude Lorrain's unique drawings and printed works.
Curated by Martin Sonnabend (Städel Museum), Dr. Jon Whiteley (Ashmolean Museum)
The Städel Museum in Frankfurt will showcase the work of Claude Lorrain (c. 1600–1682), one of the most important landscape painters of the seventeenth century, in a monographic exhibition, the first in Germany since 1983. As of February 3, 2012, the show "Claude Lorrain. The Enchanted Landscape” presents about one hundred and thirty works from all phases of the important French Baroque artist’s production. Based on the most recent results of scientific research, the comprehensive exhibition comprises a high-caliber selection of paintings as well as Claude Lorrain’s unique drawings and printed works. Loans were made available by the British Museum and the National Gallery in London, the Petit Palais in Paris, and the Museum of Prints and Drawings in Berlin, among others. Developed together with the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, the presentation highlights Lorrain as a highly reflected artist producing outstanding and original works in each of the three media.
Claude Gellée, known as Le Lorrain ("The Lotharingian”), Claude Lorrain, or traditionally just Claude in English, was born in Chamagne, a village near Nancy, in Lorraine in 1600. Still in his youth, he went to Rome where he remained until the end of his life excepting a short return to his homeland in 1625. From his beginnings, Claude primarily devoted himself to landscape painting: his pictures were such a success that he soon received commissions from the pope, powerful cardinals, and European princes. From the mid-1630s till the end of his days, the artist, who had no big workshop and virtually no pupils, had to work hard to satisfy the demand for his paintings. His oeuvre encompasses approximately 250 paintings, 1,200 drawings, and 44 prints.
Claude based his paintings on the studies he made during numerous excursions through the rural environs of Rome, relying on precisely developed compositions to create timeless classic landscapes. Already during his life-time he was particularly held in high regard in Italy and France, while his art excited the utmost admiration in England and Germany in the eighteenth century. Travelers from England who, in keeping with their station, visited Italy on their Grand Tour acquired many of the artist’s paintings, and the greater part of his drawings and several of his etchings are also to be found in English collections today.
Claude’s works not only exercised a formative influence on England’s fine arts of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries like on the painter William Turner, but especially on English ornamental gardening, which mirrors the idealized landscape so typical of Lorrain – a landscape that strikes us as good as natural thanks to its most precise layout. Germany’s most famous "Grand Tourist,” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, aimed at this peculiar characteristic when he described Claude’s pictures as works that possess "the highest truth, but no trace of reality” and said that "in Claude Lorrain, nature declares itself eternal.” Goethe’s high regard for the artist reflects that Claude profoundly influenced not only English, but also eighteenth-century German artists, particularly the landscape painters working in Rome, such as Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein. As Claude’s works were mainly purchased by well-off English travelers, though, they are to be found only sporadically in German collections.
Besides five drawings and about forty etchings, the Städel possesses a significant late painting by the master: "Christ Appears before Mary Magdalene (Noli me tangere).” In recent years, the Städel could acquire a rare etching from the spectacular "Fireworks” series and an important drawing from the so-called Wildenstein album, "Dancer with Tambourine and Bagpiper,” which is considered one of the artist’s most beautiful figure studies. This acquisition was made possible by the Kulturstiftung der Länder and the Hessische Kulturstiftung in 2008. The Wildenstein album comprised a selection of Claude’s drawings assembled only a few years after the artist’s death and not split up and sold before 1960. The Städel Museum regarded these acquisitions a wonderful occasion to dedicate itself to Claude in the form of a comprehensive research and exhibition project realized together with the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.
The exhibition on display on the upper floor of the exhibition building offers a chronological view of Claude’s production. The first hall is reserved for the presentation of the artist’s early work, which mainly shows Arcadian pastoral scenes and views of harbors. The large-format early pair of paintings "Coast View” and "The Judgment of Paris” from 1633 is rounded off with nature studies from early sketchbooks and etchings from the 1630s. Another early painting is a work for Pope Urban VIII: "Landscape with Rustic Dance.” This work is accompanied by pertinent drawings conveying a first impression of the relationship between Claude’s painting, drawing, and graphic art.
The tour continues with drawings and prints dating from Claude’s middle phase of production like the painting "A Seaport” from 1644 and the large "Landscape with the Adoration of the Golden Calf” from 1653, which constitute another focus of the exhibition. Outstanding works on paper reveal a largely unknown aspect of the artist. Claude not only made drawings in preparation of his paintings, but also for the sake of drawing itself, showing a versatility that was entirely unusual for a seventeenthcentury artist. Nature and composition studies are to be found next to drawings documenting completed paintings; studies which have actually fulfilled their function have been touched up and modified just for the artist’s pleasure. From the mid-1630s on, Claude made drawings after his own paintings in special paper books; initially aimed at preventing that works by other artists were sold as his, these drawings in what he called his "Liber Veritatis” (Book of Truth) increasingly turned into a medium of reflection.
Though Claude was interested in the technique of etching especially in his early years, he experimented with this medium as he did with drawing and, throughout his career as an artist, created works that rank among the most important of their kind in the seventeenth century. The exhibition will present Claude’s etchings, far less numerous than his drawings, almost in their entirety. The complete spectacular "Fireworks” series (1637), which captures festivities in the Piazza di Spagna lasting for several days, will actually be displayed for the first time.
Biblical and mythological motifs prevail in Claude’s later work, their subjects reverberating in the landscapes in which they are embedded. Claude was an unequalled master in rendering light and the subtlest atmospheric nuances; however, the harmonic balance of his compositions, the calm, serene coexistence of man and nature, is always endowed with an inner dynamics charged with tension which we grasp step by step. The Frankfurt painting "Christ Appears before Mary Magdalene (Noli me tangere)” and the Oxford work "Landscape with Ascanius Shooting the Stag of Sylvia” (1682) illustrate this in a particularly striking way.
Claude’s working method did not comply with what the academies taught at that time. Based on a thorough knowledge of nature, he composed his works by using elements that repeat themselves in ever new variations and were taken from his carefully guarded store of drawings. The approach he pursued was an almost abstract one of "theme and variations” – a method that entailed an increasing intensification. A specific feature of his production was working with pendants: in the 1630s, Claude developed an individual artistic concept of pairs of (painted or engraved) pictures revealing certain compositional parallels or opposites. He often combined an Arcadian scenery with a view of the sea or a morning and an evening scene. How this concept of pendants, which Claude expounded in the course of his career, enhances the extraordinary quality of his compositions through a mutual and manifold poetic reflection will be demonstrated impressively in the presentation of numerous examples such as "Coast View” (1633) and "The Judgment of Paris” (1633), "Christ Appears before Mary Magdalene” (1681) and "Landscape with the Baptism of the Eunuch” (1678), as well as "Landscape with Ascanius” (1682) and "View of Carthage with Dido and Aeneas” (1675/76).
Dorothea Apovnik (head), Axel Braun (press officer), Städel Museum, Dürerstraße 2,
60596 Frankfurt, telephone: +49(0)69-605098-234, fax: +49(0)69-605098-188, firstname.lastname@example.org
Schaumainkai 63 - Frankfurt
Hours: Tue, Fr–Su 10.00 am – 6.00 pm, Wed, Thu 10.00 am – 9.00 pm
Admission: 12 Euros, reduced 10 Euros