The artist received his first drawing lessons from his brother Jean Gellee, who was a woodcarver. In 1613, he came to Italy where he worked as a servant of the Cavalier D'Arpino, and then Agostino Tassi. Together with Tassi and a German landscape painter Gottfried Waltz, in 1618-20 the artist worked in Naples, and then in Rome. In 1625 Lorraine went back to Lotharingia through Venice and Bayern. There he assisted Claude Deruet as he made frescoes in Nancy. In 1627, he moved to Rome.
Claude Laurent was born in 1600, in a peasant family. Having received primary knowledge in drawing from his older brother, the skilful engraver in Freiburg in Breisgau, in 1613-14, Claude traveled to Italy accompanied by one of his relatives. Working as a servant in the house of a landscape painter Agostino Tassi, Claude Lorrain learned some techniques and gained basic skills. From 1617, Lorraine lived in Naples where he studied architecture under Goffredo Wals in Naples. Later he joined the workshop of Agostino Tassi in Rome. There he lived until his death (1627-1682). At first he executed custom decorative work, the so called "landscape murals", but later he managed to become a professional landscapist and focus on easel painting. In addition, Lorraine was a great etcher.
In 1637, the French Ambassador to the Vatican bought two paintings by Lorrain, "View of the Roman Forum", and "View of the port with Capitolium", which are housed in the Louvre now. In 1639, the kingof Spain Philip IV commissioned Lorrain seven works (now in the Prado Museum). Among his clients were Pope Urban VIII, Cardinal Bentivoglio, Prince Colonna.
In the Baroque era, landscape was considered the low genre. Lorrain, however, was a recognized painter who lived in abundance. He had a large three storey house in the center of Rome, since 1634 he was a member of the St. Lucca Academy. Later, in 1650, he was offered to become the rector of this Academy, though the artist rejected this honor. He communicated with various artists, in particular his neighbour Nicolas Poussin, whome he frequently visited in the 1660's to drink a glass of good red wine.
The artist never married, but adopted an orphan child, Agnese, in 1653. Claude Lorrain died in 1682.