Claude Lorrain was born in 1604 of very poor parents at the village of Champagne (France). At the age of 12, being left an orphan, he went to live with an elder brother, a wood-carver of moderate merit, and under him he designed arabesques and foliage.
He afterwards rambled to Rome to seek a living; but from his ignorance of the language, he failed to obtain permanent employment. He next went to Naples, to study landscape painting under Godfrey Waals, a painter with a good reputation. With him he remained two years; then he returned to Rome, and was domesticated with landscape-painter Augustin Tassi, who hired him to grind his colours and to do all the household drudgery.
His master advanced him in the rules of perspective and the elements of design. Under his tuition Claude devoted himself to artistic study with great eagerness and his mind began to expand. He made studies in the open fields, where he remained from sunrise till sunset, watching the effect of the light upon the landscape. He sketched whatever he thought beautiful or striking. From these sketches he perfected his landscapes.
Leaving Tassi, he made a tour in Italy, France and Germany. Karl Dervent, painter to the duke of Lorraine, kept him as assistant for a year. He did not, however, enjoy this employment, and in 1627 he returned to Rome. Here he earned the protection of Pope Urban VIII and from about 1637 he rose into celebrity. Claude was acquainted not only with the facts, but also with the laws of nature. He elaborated his pictures with care and if any performance fell short of his ideal, he changed, erased and repainted it several times over.
His landscapes present to the spectator an infinite variety; so many views of land and water, so many interesting objects that the eye is obliged to pause and measure the extent of the prospect, and his distances of mountain and of sea, are so illusive, that the spectator feels fatigued by gazing.
In order to avoid a repetition of the same subject, and also to detect the very numerous spurious copies of his works, he made tinted outline drawings of all those pictures which were transmitted to different countries; and on the back of each drawing he wrote the name of the purchaser.
Claude, who had suffered much from gout, died in Rome at the age of 82, on the November 21, 1682.