Thursday, 14 August 2014

Two Landscapes: A Sunset and a Storm

Claude-Joseph Vernet (Avignon, France, 14th August 1714 – Paris, France, 3rd December 1789)


Claude-Joseph Vernet by Élisabeth-Louise Vigée-Le Brun, 1778
Claude- Joseph Vernet by Élisabeth-Louise Vigée-Le Brun, 1778

On this, the anniversary of the birth of artist, Claude-Joseph Vernet, I thought the time was right to examine some of his remarkable works. The son of a painter, Vernet was noted for the beautiful landscape paintings he produced and he often exhibited contrasting works together, demonstrating the harmony and savagery of nature. Vernet lived for many years in Italy and fell in love with the world of the ocean, depicting wild storms and tranquil surfaces, with ships both in peril and safely sailing into port. These contrasts are nowhere clearer than in his series, Two Landscapes: A Sunset and a Storm.


A Shipwreck in Stormy Seas by Claude-Joseph Vernet, 1773
A Shipwreck in Stormy Seas by Claude-Joseph Vernet, 1773
In 1773, Clive of India purchased two paintings from Vernet, A Shipwreck in Stormy Seas and its companion piece, A Landscape at Sunset. Other than the nautical setting, the content of the paintings could not be more different and A Shipwreck in Stormy Seas depicts an image that would have not been unfamiliar to those who lived in coastal regions. In it we see mighty ships tossed this way and that on the violent waves as the few survivors stagger to safety on the wind-lashed rocks. It is an image that perfectly captures the fury of nature and the dangers of sea travel in the era, with the impressive vessels no match for the lightning we see striking off into the distance as the sun battles to pierce the clouds.


A Landscape at Sunset by Claude-Joseph Vernet, 1773
A Landscape at Sunset by Claude-Joseph Vernet, 1773

Contrast the violence the lightning flaring in the sky with the gentle depiction of soft sunlight on the tranquil waves depicted in its partner, A Landscape at Sunset. Here the waters are not a place of danger but of commerce and recreation, with people fishing and taking the air as the ships that appear so fragile in the storm sail majestically out of port. If this is the maritime dream then A Shipwreck in Stormy Seas is its nightmare flipside, the idea of the ocean as a source of riches depicted likewise as a source of danger.

As a lady who loves the sea, these are richly evocative works and I could study them for hours. Vernet's paintings are so rich in detail and these are only two, I heartily recommend that you seek out others!

14 comments:

Debra Brown said...

These two certainly sell one on the artist!

Madame Gilflurt said...

Aren't they glorious?

Aidan said...

I love his work,he is one of my favourite eighteenth-century artists.

Madame Gilflurt said...

His work is breathtaking!

Anonymous said...

Very beautiful -- strong and violent with very lovely coloring that speaks to me. Is it a place that is familiar?

Madame Gilflurt said...

I'm not 100% sure; I will update if I am able to find out!

M. C. Muir said...

I agree

Catherine Curzon said...

Thank you!

Obuj balok said...

Nice

Catherine Curzon said...

Thank you!

Stephen Baines said...

Thank you for introducing me to these pictures, which I had not previously seen. Much appreciated! The tranquil scene owes much to Claude Lorraine, I think, and the classical temple on the left resembles that at Stourhead, I suspect the location is a compilation. Vernet certainly knows about ships!

Catherine Curzon said...

Thank you for visiting! I'm intrigued by the thought of this being a location fashioned from several rap influence and think I might have to do some digging on this!

Aidan said...

A much under rated artist today but very sought after by British and Irish Grand Tourists in the eighteenth century.To the best of my knowledge there hasn`t been a single work on Vernet published in the English language since 1976.

Catherine Curzon said...

I believe you're right; he really was a wonderful artist, I do hope someone will fill that scholarly gap!