Claude Lorrain achieved fame as a painter of ideal landscapes, a type of art that sought to represent nature as more beautiful and more “ideal” than nature itself. His paintings are the visual equivalent of pastoral poetry, and often are inhabited (as in pastoral poetry) by shepherds and other country folk.
In "An Artist Studying from Nature," Claude painted an imaginary harbor dominated by a large tree and a fortified building and bathed in glowing light. The building is similar to the Castle of Palo, a fortified structure on the Mediterranean coast west of Rome. Although born in France, Claude lived in Italy from about age thirteen and traveled extensively through the countryside, sketchbook in hand. He made several drawings at the Castle of Palo, just like the artist in the lower right-hand corner of this painting. In the same way as Claude, the artist depicted here studies the specifics of nature in order to achieve an ideal result. Claude drew a copy of "An Artist Studying from Nature" in his "Liber Veritatis" or "Book of Truth" (now in the British Museum), in which he meticulously recorded all his paintings to guard against forgeries.