The French Baroque painter Claude Gellée, known as Le Lorrain, raised landscape painting to an independent art form. Claude Lorrain’s career is closely associated with Italy. He had learned perspective in Naples and figurative painting in Rome, where he also lived beginning in 1627, painting mainly for the local aristocracy. His pictures quickly earned renown throughout Europe, especially for his elevation of the sun as visible source of illumination to the status of principal subject in pictures flooded with warm light, and his free combination of coastal landscapes with Roman villas, ancient monuments, and mythological and pastoral scenes. The artist achieved this effect of diffuse light with a special technique: the exceptional nuance with which he graded his slowly drying oil paint created subtle, imperceptible transitions. He also applied the thinnest of glazes between the layers to produce his unmistakable glow.
The Kunsthaus owns two works by Claude Lorrain; the Pastoral with the Arch of Constantine has an interesting provenance. It belonged originally to the English scholar and art collector Sir Horace Walpole, who showed it in the famed gallery in his country home of Houghton Hall in the first third of the 18th century. The picture was then forgotten, only to be discovered in 1989 during much-needed renovations in the attic. A double stroke of luck, since the sale of the painting allowed Houghton Hall to pay for a new roof, and provided the Kunsthaus with an outstanding piece of art history.