b. 1714 Avignon, France, d. 1789 Paris
"He has stolen Nature's secret; whatever she produces, Vernet can recreate." --Denis Diderot, reviewing the Salon of 1763
A coach painter's son, Claude-Joseph Vernet first studied with his father, then with a painter in Aix-en-Provence. Supported by some of the region's art patrons, the young artist went to Rome in 1734, where he studied the works of Claude Lorrain and trained under a follower of Salvator Rosa and a French marine painter.
By 1740, Vernet's landscape and seascape clients included artists Placido Costanzi and Sebastiano Conca and important Frenchmen, Italians, and especially the English. From 1746 until his death, he regularly sent pictures to the Salon, where they were enthusiastically received. Returning to France in 1753, Vernet became a full member of the Académie Royale. His fame was assured when Louis XV commissioned him to paint a series of ports of France; assisted by Pierre-Jacques Volaire, Vernet traveled around France for nine years. After 1762 he settled in Paris and painted highly successful storm scenes, shipwrecks, and moonlit night-pieces. These pictures foreshadowed Romantic landscape painting while appealing to the mid- to late 1700s' taste for the "terrible" and the Picturesque.
Entrance to Grotto
French, Paris, 1767
French, Paris, 1770