A Classical Landscape Painting

30 “x 40” Acrylic on canvas

This painting, titled “Sunset on Lake Dos Bocas”, is an imaginary composition inspired by a beautiful lake in northern Puerto Rico. I chose to follow the principles of composition of the great 17th century master Claude Lorrain, considered the greatest artist of classical landscape painting. These landscapes aimed at depicting an ideal setting of pastoral beauty. The sun and its luminosity is the main theme in most of Lorrain’s landscape paintings. His compositions were completely original and imaginary, there is no such harmonious arrangement of masses of trees, mountains and valleys. Therefore, a classical landscape painting by Claude Lorrain is an idyllic scenario rather than a topographical rendering.

Claude Lorrain would often include ancient Roman ruins in his classical landscape paintings. He also populated his paintings with tiny figures related to classical or biblical mythology. Figure dtawing was not his forte, though, and the old master himself recognized this weakness by humorously declaring that he charged for the landscape, the figures he gave away for free.

On one side of the picture there is a dense and dark mass of foliage and trees closest to the viewer, which frames the picture and directs the eye toward the central scenery. This is known as “repoussir”. On the other side and in the middle distance, another group of trees balances the composition. In many of his pastoral landscapes, Claude Lorrain would place the sun  behind this group of trees. We know it from the way the leaves around the edge of the foliage are made translucent and merge with the sky. This amazing atmospheric effect makes the central part of the painting, the area that shows the depth of the landscape to the horizon, shine in radiant sunlight.

Sunset on Lake Dos Bocas shows native trees of Puerto Rico. These idealized images were drawn from a series of photos and sketches I made of trees of various species to render them convincingly in the style of a classical landscape painting. Unlike the old master, who could afford to represent the horizon in his imaginary vast panoramas of the Italian countryside, I chose to put the sun behind the most distant mountains of my small tropical island.

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