Claude Lorrain, Study of an Oak Tree, a drawing
Italy, late AD 1630s
This is one of the finest of a group of tree studies drawn in black chalk with pen and brown ink and grey-brown wash. It is inscribed in the pool of light at the lower right in the artist's own handwriting: 'Claudio fecit / facto a Vigne Madama' ('Claude made [it] / done at [the] Madama Vineyard').
In the front rises a monumental oak tree, half in light and half in shade. Entwined around it is ivy, reaching up into the branches of the tree. From the base the tree's massive roots stretch out into the shadowy foreground. Delicate touches of pen and ink define the leaves and outlines of the ivy. A much darker wash brings out the intense shadows while lighter washes suggest a variety of tones. The background screen of trees, in particular, has a more delicate and paler wash. These trees are lit by the strong light coming from the right, suggested by leaving the white paper bare.
As the inscription states, this and other drawings were made in the park of the Villa Madama, just outside Rome. Claude and his artist-friends often went sketching there together. It was less than two miles uphill from the Ponte Molle. Although not used for any particular painting, there are several in which similar oak trees appear. It is a reminder, therefore, of how much Claude depended on his nature studies, drawn outside, to paint his landscapes in the studio.
M. Roethlisberger, Claude Lorrain: the drawings, 2 vols. (University of California Press, 1968)
A.M. Hind, Catalogue of the drawings of C (London, 1926)
D. Russell, Claude Lorrain (Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, 1982)
J.J.L. Whiteley, Claude Lorrain: drawings from, exh. cat. (London, The British Museum Press, 1998)
Height: 330.000 mm
Width: 224.000 mm
Height: 330.000 mm
Bequeathed by R. Payne Knight