Berger et bergère conversant [Shepherd and Shepherdess Conversing]
20 cm x 26.3 cm (7 7/8 in. x 10 3/8 in.)
(Lorraine, France, 1604 - 1682, Rome, Italy)
Medium and Support:
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, The Leo Steinberg Collection, 2002
The creator of classical landscape painting, Claude Lorrain was an etcher of equivalent beauty and significance. Most of his prints were created in the 1630s. They evolved from the densely worked and animated style of Roman tradition to one approximating the subtlety of the artist’s mature paintings. For nearly a decade after that, Claude did not return to etching. Berger et bergère conversant was one of the first plates after he resumed. As with many of Claude’s etchings, the composition is related to that of a painting (Barnes Foundation, Merion, Pennsylvania). Much more than in early works, however, the conception was improvisatory, the initial handling broad, and the reworking of the plate pronounced. Claude had always made subtle changes to his plates in pursuing a desired effect. Now, the states test possibilities, vary mood as much as detail, and do not necessarily reach a conclusion. Here, the second state of the print involved extensive scraping and burnishing of the plate, eradicating entire passages, mottling the surface, and lightening the tone. No etcher in seventeenth-century Italy took greater advantage of the technique’s opportunities for creative experiment.
The museum possesses sixteen etchings by Claude. The six in the Leo Steinberg Collection are all very early, fine, and today rare.