Research Point Claude Lorrain and Turner

Mount Vesuvius in Eruption

Look at the work of Claude Lorrain and Turner. Write notes on how these artists divide their landscapes into foreground, middle ground and background.

Claude Lorrain

In the earlier research point I refrained from looking at the works of Claude Lorrain as I knew I would be looking at them again here. However looking at his paintings now, some of those artists may have possibly been influenced by Claud Lorrain himself.

I looked at quite a few of his paintings but for this research point I chose three to look at in detail.

Claude Lorrain Landscape with Merchants
Claude Lorrain Landscape with Merchants

The first painting that I chose out was ‘Landscape with Merchants’ a prime example of how Lorrain used different levels, like platforms, to divide his paintings into a foreground, middle ground and a background helping him to create a great sense of distance in his paintings with the foreground level being the clearest and the most colourful with each level on top fading to the background. In this painting he staggers each level to depict the river flowing in a snake like pattern around the hills into the distance.

Landscape with Aeneas at Delos
Landscape with Aeneas at Delos

Again with the next painting ‘Landscape with Aeneas at Delos’ he has used the layers in the same way but this time arranged them into what I would say blocks on the left which remind me of stepping stones and doing this has managed to depict the coastline of a sea or massive lake with one final layer set to one side allowing him to show the sea meeting the sky in the horizon.

Landscape with Ascanius Shooting the Stag of Sylvia
Landscape with Ascanius Shooting the Stag of Sylvia

Trees also play a big part in depicting distance in Lorrain’s drawings often using them to divide the foreground from the middle ground like in the ‘Landscape with Ascanius Shooting the Stag of Sylvia’ above’.

J M W Turner

I looked a few of Turner’s paintings, his later seascape paintings were a bit too stressful for me so I decided to take a closer look at his earlier work. The first painting I came across was ‘Composition of Tivoli’.

Turner - Composition of Tivoli
Turner – Composition of Tivoli

Realizing that it did have an uncanny resemblance to Lorrain’s paintings I decided to look at the web page from which the image came, which turned out to be an article on the Guardian’s website entitled ‘Turner Inspired – In the light of Claude‘.

Interestingly, the article goes on that Turner was even known as the British Claude and ‘In his immense and complex bequest, Turner left two landscapes to the nation to be hung next to a pair by Claude so that the affinities would be fully apparent to succeeding generations. You can see them in room 15 of the National Gallery to this day.’ says Laura Cumming who wrote the article.

‘What Turner took from Claude is all there at a glance: the aerial view, the graceful staging with great trees on either side and the landscape dissolving into the distance in untraceable gradations, the mastery of hazy golden sunrise and the luminous glow of dusk; Claude’s magical light.’

However, in ‘Mount Vesuvius in Eruption’ below he takes the magical light that he got from Lorrain to the next step and actually depicts the eruption of a volcano. In this painting Turner uses the same kind of levels as Lorrain but he wants the background and Vesuvius to dominate the painting and so drenches the foreground with light in the form of reflection off gentle waves.

Mount Vesuvius in Eruption
Mount Vesuvius in Eruption




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