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Claude Lorrain was born under the name Claude Gallée, where today is Champagne, was then a territory of the Duchy of Lorraine, documentary sources suggest he was born circa 1605. His parents died when he was twelve, he was the third of five brothers, and after their parent's death, Claude moved with his older brother Jean Gellée to Freiburg. Since Jean was an inlay artist, he taught the basics of drawing to Claude and later moved to Italy. The painter's formal art education is quite unclear, but scholars tend to believe he had two main teachers in his early life: the first was Goffredo Wals in Naples around 1620 and Agostino Tassi in Rome, from circa 1623 to 1625.
Lorrain returned to Lorraine for a brief period, to work on fresco schemes and to train with Claude Deruet, this experience only took around three years. He then went back to Rome, settling in a house near Trinita dei Monti and the Spanish Steps, in the neighborhood of Via Margutta. Claude Lorrain traveled a lot throughout his life, having the opportunity to study the landscapes and styles of other countries like Italy, France, and Bavaria. His first dated work is from 1629, the Landscape with Cattle and Peasants, now in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, it's possible to notice that he already had a well-developed technique and style.
Around age twenty-five, Lorrain already had a solid reputation, he received many commissions from important society members, like from the King of Spain and the ambassador of France in Rome. One commission that was particularly important was to Pope Urban VIII, in which Lorrain was recommended by Cardinal Bentivoglio, that consisted of four paintings, and was crucial to consolidate Lorrain's reputation and acclaim.
From this time on, Lorrain's reputation was secure. He would receive several important commission from both Italian and international patrons. By 1636, Claude started cataloging his artwork, executing a pen and wash drawing of almost all of his finished paintings. The compilation of such drawings would be called by Lorrain as Liber Veritatis, or Book of Truth.
Although he was never married, Claude Lorrain adopted Agnese, an orphan child. Conjectures suggest that she could be Lorrain's own child with a servant. However, there is no evidence to support that theory. Claude Lorrain would begin to slow down his production by the year 1670; however, that didn't mean his artwork became less important. He executed significant paintings in this period, such as Perseus with Head of the Medusa, painted for the distinguished art collector Cardinal Camillo Massimo. He also executed Landscape with Ascanius Shooting the Stag of Sylvia, Lorrain's very last painting, commissioned by his most important patron at the time, Prince Lorenzo Onofrio Colonna.
Claude Lorrain died in his house, on November 1682. At the time of his passing, Lorrain only owned 4 of his paintings, attesting his importance throughout his career.