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A Landscape at Sunset
Claude-Joseph Vernet
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This is one of two paintings originally commissioned as a pair by Stanislas Augustus, King of Poland, in June or July 1772. However, concerned that the King was slow to pay, Vernet instead sold the pictures to the British officer and East India Company official Lord Clive (known as Clive of India).

This painting, originally known as ‘Calme’, was painted first. It shows an imaginary harbour as fishermen return with their catch on a tranquil summer’s evening. The golden setting sun is at the centre of the composition above the misty horizon, its light illuminating the undersides of the clouds and reflecting off the ripples on the calm sea. A ship has just arrived – it is just possible to make out the tiny figures on its mast yards furling the sails – and is being towed by two launches into the harbour.

‘Calme’ and its pair ‘Tempête’ are two of Vernet’s greatest marine paintings, and the only great pair of marine views by him in a British public collection.

Key facts
Artist Claude-Joseph Vernet
Artist dates 1714 - 1789
Full title A Landscape at Sunset with Fishermen returning with their Catch ('Calme')
Series Two Landscapes: A Sunset and a Storm
Date made 1773
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 114.5 x 163.5 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Acquired with a donation from the American Friends of the National Gallery, London, made possible by a gift from David H. Koch, 2004
Inventory number NG6600
Location in Gallery Not on display
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Two Landscapes: A Sunset and a Storm

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These two paintings, originally known as ‘Calme’ and ‘Tempête’ (Calm and Storm), were commissioned as a pair by Stanislas Augustus, King of Poland, in June or July 1772. However, Vernet instead sold them to the British officer and East India Company official Lord Clive (known as Clive of India), who had been impressed by two similar seascapes the artist had exhibited at the Paris Salon the previous year.

Calme’, which Vernet painted first, shows an imaginary harbour as fishermen return with their catch on a tranquil summer evening. ‘Tempête’ depicts a rocky shoreline buffeted by a violent sea storm. Two ships roll in the giant swell while another lies shattered against the rocks.

These are two of Vernet’s greatest marine paintings and the type of work for which he was most famous in his day. They are the only great pair of marine views by him in a British public collection.

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