(b. 1604, Chamagne, d. 1682, Roma)

Landscape with Dancing Figures

Oil on canvas, 149 x 197 cm
National Gallery, London

In the 1640s Claude produced many of his most ambitious pictures, such as the two versions of the Landscape with Dancing Figures (sometimes called The Mill) in the Galleria Doria in Rome and the National Gallery, London (called The Marriage of Isaac and Rebecca). They are wide in scale and the atmosphere is of broad daylight. There is a complete balance between careful observation of the reality of the Roman Campagna and the need to produce an organized composition. Unfortunately both versions of the picture suffer from a problem afflicting a number of Claude's works, the darkening of the greens in the trees. This gives them a much greater solidity than the artist intended. Moreover, in Claude's later pictures there is also sometimes a fading out of the fugitive yellows he used, which gives the pictures a much stronger bluish hue than he intended.

Painted in 1648, these two pictures sum up Claude s mature art. He had arrived at this maturity by degrees, almost imperceptibly, refining and perfecting his technique. He had for many years been drawing from nature almost obsessively, and several hundred of his sensitive and often atmospheric drawings survive. He was therefore able to combine the more naturalistic approach seen in the Ponte Molle of 1645 with an increasing desire to turn the landscape into an idealized world. He had tried dramatic atmosphere in some of his early compositions, and had succeeded with direct sunlight but had not pursued it; but he developed in his later years the soft and subtle light effects which were the most difficult of all to achieve convincingly. As he grew older Claude became even more meticulous, and his pictures never acquired the looseness sometimes seen in the works of painters in their old age, even Poussin.

The painting is included in Liber Veritatis (LV 113).