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Claude-Joseph Vernet

Avignon 1714 - 1789 Paris
Price range
250,000 – 3,000,000 USD +
Claude-Joseph Vernet is widely considered the greatest landscape and marine painter in 18th-century France.

Vernet’s sublime and romantic views, often conceived in a series, play on the distinctive light and atmosphere of different times of day, weather conditions, and contrasting terrain. Moving away from the idealized, timeless landscapes of Nicolas Poussin and Claude Lorrain a century before, Vernet combined his objective studies of nature with a poetic interpretation of the land and its inhabitants. As one of the earliest practitioners of plein air painting in oil, Vernet ushered in an era of artists who sought truth in nature; his interest in repeating the same motif with varying light and mood anticipated, most famously, the series of haystacks, Normandy coast, Rouen Cathedral and the Garden at Giverny for which Claude Monet is so renowned.

Vernet trained in his hometown Avignon with his father and Philippe Sauvan before moving to Aix-en-Provence, where his earliest documented works, a set of landscape overdoors (1731), remain at the hôtel of the marquis de Simiani. In 1734, Vernet settled in Italy aged twenty and spent almost the next twenty years in Rome. Vernet’s earliest known Italian works, The Waterfalls at Tivoli (1737; Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland) and the Rocky Landscape in Italy (1738; Dulwich Picture Gallery, London), show his awareness of Gaspard Dughet and Salvator Rosa. Frequent retreats into the Roman Campagna, Tivoli in particular, provided ample inspiration for Vernet, as was the tradition for artists–from the Bentvueghels in the 1600s to fellow French pensioners such as Pierre Subleyras and Charles-Joseph Natoire. Drawing from nature was not uncommon by the mid-17th century but Vernet was among the first to advocate studying nature in oil. His oil sketches, such as that of the Temple of Vesta, a ruin from 1st century BC, are frequently reused in later compositions to lend his gauzy marines a taste of Italy. Vernet also took up copper as a support, which was widely used in Rome but foreign to his French contemporaries, notably Jean-Honoré Fragonard and Hubert Robert.

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Selected artworks

Top 3 auction prices

3,849,142 $
7,026,500 $
8,160,104 $


The sales are: Sotheby’s London – 10 July 2003 lot 65 (2,357,600 GBP), Sotheby’s New York – 27 January 2011 lot 183 (5,132,858), Sotheby’s London – 3 July 2013 lot 39 (5,346,500 GBP)
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Notable exhibitions

Rouen, Musée des beaux-arts, Autour de Claude-Joseph Vermet: la marine à voile, de 1650 à 1890, 20 July–14 September 1999. Curated by Philip Conisbee.

Munich, Neue Pinakothek, Claude-Joseph Vernet, 1714-1789, 10 April–6 July 1997. Curated by Helge Siefert.

New York, Colnaghi, Claude to Corot: The Development of Landscape Painting in France, 1 November–15 December 1990. Curated by Alan Wintermute.

London, Kenwood, Claude-Joseph Vernet, 1714–1789, 4 June–19 September 1976; travelled to the Musée de la Marine, Paris, 14 October 1976–9 January 1977. Curated by Philip Conisbee.

Books on Claude-Joseph Vernet

Philip Conisbee, et al., French Paintings of the Fifteenth through the Eighteenth Century, Washington, D.C., 2009.

Philip Conisbee, Autour de Claude-Joseph Vermet: la marine à voile, de 1650 à 1890, exh. cat., Rouen, 1999.

Laurent Manoeuvre, Joseph Vernet, 1714-1789: les ports de France, Paris, 1994.

Alan Wintermute, ed., Claude to Corot: The Development of Landscape Painting in France, exh. cat., New York, 1990.

Philip Conisbee, Claude-Joseph Vernet, 1714–1789, exh. cat., London, 1976.

Florence Ingersoll-Smouse,  Joseph Vernet, peintre de marine, 1714-1789: étude critique suivie d’un catalogue raisonné de son œuvre peint, Paris, 1926.

Léon Lagrange, Les Vernets. Joseph Vernet et la peinture au xv iiie siècle, Paris, 1864.

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