Drawing One Part Three Landscape research point foreground midground and background in the work of Lorraine and Turner

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

Claude Lorrain born in 1600 in Lorrain,France was famous for his romantic depictions of landscape in which he “present(ed) a view of nature more beautiful and harmonious than nature itself.”

ref: Emil Kren (a retired physicist) and Daniel Marx (computer researcher) , Web Gallery of Art. (2013)  [online] Available from: http://www.wga.hu/frames-e.html?/bio/c/claude/biograph.html  [Accessed June 2013].

The “gallery of art”explains that the beauty and harmony are produced by virtue of classical ruins, people in classical dress having the area around Rome as their background.

Having lost his parents in his early teens Claude went to Rome where he trained as an artist under the direction of Agostini Tassi. After returning briefly to France he settled finally in Rome. He had connections with Poussin.

His first dated work is 1629: “Landscape with cattle and peasants”.

He uses both light and aerial perspective to produce depth in his paintings.

The web gallery of art goes onto describe the composition of Lorrain’s paintings: tall trees on one side,smaller trees and,or ruins further back on the other side,figures in classical dress in the foreground:

Landscape with Paris and Oenone 1648Oil on canvas, 119 x 150 cm Musée du Louvre, Paris

online image sourced June 2013 from:http://www.wga.hu/frames-e.html?/bio/c/claude/biograph.html

and a winding road or river leading the eye to the horizon where there are distant hills or the sea.

Landscape with Rest in Flight to Egypt 1647Oil on canvas, 102 x 134 cms Gemäldegalerie, Dresden

Sourced (Jun e 2013) from: http://www.wga.hu/frames-e.html?/bio/c/claude/biograph.html

Landscape with Shepherds – The Pont Molle 1645 Oil on canvas, 74 x 97 cm City Art Gallery, Birmingham

sourced (June 2013) from:http://www.wga.hu/frames-e.html?/bio/c/claude/biograph.html

Landscape with Dancing Figures 1648 Oil on canvas, 149 x 197 cm National Gallery, London

sourced (June 2013) from:http://www.wga.hu/frames-e.html?/bio/c/claude/biograph.html

His division into foreground mid and background:

Lorrain places figures in the near foreground. They are about one sixth the height of the total canvas, so in relation to his trees, quite small but they are colourful, well lit and invariably doing something of interest. all of which catch the eye. Although very close to the bottom of the canvas they are firmly in the landscape being separated from the viewer by a piece of land which tends also to be catching the light.The figures are in open space which is either framed or immediately backed, at least on one side, by dark looming trees which reach from a position around the heads of the figures to the very top of the canvas and so occupy about two thirds of the canvas length. A stretch of glowing water contrastingly light in colour originates close to  the figures and leads into the distance, taking the eye back to softly painted (in colour and blurredness) to buildings which are classical or ruined in nature. The size of these buildings varies with whether they are to be used to frame the image and “assist” the trees. Beyond the ruins are the soft features of hills or mountains catching the light in pale shades of gold or purple. The sky crowns all, glowing in soft colours,white,pinks,yellows and blues and crossed by the contrasting dark forms of the trees. The image is complex and clearly divided into fore mid and back ground areas, but also into light and dark, soft and harsh, and activity and peace,  the softness of the image in its reducing colour less marked forms and its use of less stringent  tone increases as the eye moves from foreground to background.

Turner  How he divides his work into foreground, midground and background

Turner was born more than a century after Poussin in 1775, in the reign of George 111 (died 1820)in England, Louis XVI th in France and 3 years before the French revolution and the rise of Napoleon, to be followed in 1793 by Britain’s war with France.

He was twenty five years older than Dickens (born in 1812). he illustrated Walter Scott’s (1771-1832)  novels of romantic Scottish heroes, and was contemporary with Byron (1788-1824), and Wordsworth(1770-1850), and in later years with Keats (1795-1821) and Shelley 1792-1822 an and was about thirty years older than the Bronte sisters.

This era in England blossomed with Romantic literature and art-perhaps by virtue of the greater freedom (by virtue of insutrialisation and scientific discovery) and education given to the “common man”.

The early 19th century saw the rise of indutrialisation in Britain, after the development of the spinning Jenny by Arkwright. In the 1790s the well paid and respected weaver was overtaken by mechanisation and became one of many labourers (including children) in the cotton factories. Luddite rebellions  broke out against automated machinery. England was changing from rural to industrial with the smoke filling Northern towns.

For the first 8 years of Turner’s life, England was fighting America which gained its independence in 1783. The early 19th century was marked by the strong antislavery movements and eventual abolition of the slave trade (in 1807 in England) between  Africa and America and by the commencement of deportation to Australia.

Turner’s England was changing from the rural scenes of Lorrain’s to smoke filled skies, from rural life to industry and travel to the Americas or Australia, from importation of slaves to their recognition as suffering human beings and from a fear of revolution against the monarchy.

Turner died in 1851.

He saw the beginning of photography 1839 by Daguerre,

He was a contemporary of David, in France (born 1748) of Goya in Spain ( born 1746)-both of whom painted pictures in relation to wars and revolutions, as France and Spain fought, and of Blake in England (1757-1827) ,Constable (1776-1837) and Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) (his personal friend of the same age).

GoyaThe Third of May 1808, 1814
Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (Spanish, 1746–1828) Oil on canvas; 8 ft. 4 3/8 in. x 11 ft. 3 7/8 in. (255 x 345 cm)
Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid sourced on line (July 2013)  from:http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/goya/hd_goya.html

The contrasting light and dark in Goya’s picture may be regarded as reflected in some of Turner’s pictures.

Queen Katherine’s Dream 2  William Blake

sourced on line (1st July 2013) from: http://www.william-blake.org/Queen-Katherine%27s-Dream-2.html

This swirling image is similar to the more abstract swirls of light and dark seen in Turner’s pictures.

Turner was born in London and kept his Cockney accent all his life. He entered the Royal Academy schools, worked with Girtin colouring prints with watercolours (ref: sourced on line (July 2013)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Girtin) ,Thomas Malton, studying architecture. Because of surrounding unrest in the world he travelled in England a lot during his early professional years skecthing (on the spot) during the summers and painting in his studio in the winters.  sourced on line (July 2013) from ref http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/joseph-mallord-william-turner-558


Aeneas and the Sibyl, Lake Avernus  by Joseph Mallord William Turner

Although not suggested in the  research point, I was interested to know more of Poussin.


text reference-aourced on line (July 2013) from: http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/artists/nicolas-poussin

Poussin was six years older than his fellow Frenchman Lorraine, born in 1594 in Normandy, living in Paris and then settling like Lorraine, in Rome. Elizabeth was queen in England

His work reflects Titian and Raphael. He had an interest in Roman myth and history. He was patronised by Cardinal Richelieu and sketched with Claude Lorrain becoming interested in depicting the countryside around Rome in a romantic and classical manner. Generally his paintings sewem to concentrate on the figures which use the landscape as a backdrop, rather than with Lorrain’s pictures which use the figures as an area of interest within the landscape.

Acis and Galatea c. 1630 Nicolas Poussin

sourced on line (July2013) from:http://www.nicolaspoussin.org/Acis-and-Galatea-c.-1630.html

here his figures so dominate the fore and mid ground that only hints of a rural background can be seen in comparison to the greater view of the countryside itself as depicted by Lorrain. Most of his pictures seem to have this balance although there are some in which the countryside fore, mid and background are a “stage set” for his figures and their story:

Ideal Landscape 1645-50  Nicolas Poussin

sourced on line (July 2013) from:http://www.nicolaspoussin.org/Ideal-Landscape-1645-50.html

Poussin’s large and sensuous or over dramatic  figures do not appeal to me –and fall within the realms of the art of the sistine chapel which is also far too full of opulence and perfection.

In a recent visit to Gawthorpe hall, we were informed that a wall was built in a crooked manner as no-one could be perfect -that was only for God, and although such religious sentiments are not my reason, I do prefer the slightly imperfect or rough to these images of excessive perfection. Turner is certainly more to my liking giving vent to a more purtanical feeling in the countryside.