Poussin, Nicolas

Poussin, Nicolas
   French artist who was mainly active in Rome. Little is known of Poussin's activities in France prior to his arrival in the papal city in 1624. He is then documented living with Simon Vouet, and in 1626 with François Duquesnoy. The earliest works Poussin executed in Italy were rendered in the Venetian mode he was able to study when he stopped in Venice on his way to Rome. His Et in Arcadia Ego (c. 1627; Chatsworth, Devonshire Collection), a work inspired by Guercino's painting of the same title (c. 1618; Rome, Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica) provides an example of his Venetianized phase. Here, as in many of the works by Venetian masters, the brushwork is loose, the colors Titian-like, the landscape lush, and the figures fleshy. To this period also belongs the Triumph of Flora (c. 1627; Paris, Louvre) and the Martyrdom of St. Erasmus (1628-1629; Rome, Vatican Pinacoteca), this last commission meant for one of the altars in St. Peter's dedicated to the saint.
   In the 1630s, Poussin changed his style to conform to the classicist-idealist mode of the Carracci and their followers, resulting from his contact with Andrea Sacchi, a member of the Carracci School. A work by Poussin that presents this change is the Rape of the Sabine Women (c. 1635; New York, Metropolitan Museum), a scene that seems as a choreographed ballet with figures in repetitive yet elegant poses. Poussin by now had become keenly interested in antiquity and had gained access to Cassiano dal Pozzo's Museo Cartaceo, which provided information on the architecture, sculpture, artifacts, and everyday objects of the ancients. The details in the Rape of the Sabine Women, down to the costumes and hairstyles, are based on these materials in Pozzo's collection.
   In 1640, Poussin was invited by King Louis XIII of France to Paris, a trip that turned out to be somewhat of a catastrophe. He clashed with local artists, among them Vouet who by now had returned to France and become the king's official painter. Poussin was given commissions that were unsuitable for his temperament, including the decoration of the Great Gallery in the Louvre, which he left unfinished. In 1642, he returned to Rome feeling defeated, yet he maintained contacts with French patrons and stoicist philosophers, resulting in yet another change in his style. In the mid-1640s, he developed what he called the Grande Maniera, a type of painting based on the classical Greek modes of music used to express different moods. As a result, the movements and gestures of his figures became codified to denote piety, celebrations, or violence. His subjects also changed. He now favored stories with moral and heroic content, as his works the Funeral of Phocion (1648; Louvre, Paris) and the Gathering of the Ashes of Phocion (1648; Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery) exemplify. These scenes, taken from the writings of Plutarch, speak of a hero's fall and the triumph of truth and virtue.
   To this period in Poussin's career also belong the Madonna of the Steps (1648; Washington, National Gallery) and the Holy Family (1651; Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum). These works mimic the reliefs of the ancients and present clear, linear renditions. Unfortunately, they represent a decline in Poussin's art in that his figures are painted in unusually orange flesh tones with strange faces, the lines have become too stiff, and the color contrasts too jarring. In spite of this decline, Poussin's mature works of moral rectitude and vindication and his view that painting must appeal to reason and improve upon nature became the canon adopted by the French Academy. With this, Poussin determined the course of art in France during the second half of the 17th century and beyond.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

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  • Poussin, Nicolas — • An article about the artist, with bibliography Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006 …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Poussin, Nicolas — born 1594, Villers, France died Nov. 19, 1665, Rome, Papal States French painter. Except for two years as court painter to Louis XIII, he spent his entire career in Rome, where he became an admirer of ancient Roman civilization. In early works,… …   Universalium

  • Poussin, Nicolas — (1594 1665)    painter    Nicolas Poussin, who was the founder and greatest practitioner of 17th century French classical painting, was born in Villers, near Les Andelys, normandy. He studied painting in Paris and probably also Rouen, then in… …   France. A reference guide from Renaissance to the Present

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  • Poussin, Nicolas — (June 1594 Villiers bei Les Andelys 11/19/1665) (France / Italy)    Painter. A major figure of the French Baroque period. Trained with the Mannerist Georges Lalle mant and perhaps F. Elle in Paris. Renowned for his landscapes and history… …   Dictionary of erotic artists: painters, sculptors, printmakers, graphic designers and illustrators

  • Poussin,Nicolas — Pous·sin (po͞o săɴʹ), Nicolas. 1594 1665. French painter whose landscapes and historical and religious paintings, such as Holy Family on the Steps (1648), are among the greatest examples of the classical style. * * * …   Universalium

  • POUSSIN, NICOLAS —    one of the most illustrious of French painters, born near Andelys, in Normandy; studied first in Paris and then at Rome, where he first attained celebrity, whence he was in 1640 invited to Paris by Louis XIII., who appointed him painter in… …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

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  • Nicolas Poussin — Poussin redirects here. For other uses, see Poussin (disambiguation). Nicolas Poussin Self portrait by Nicolas Poussin, 1650 Born June 15, 1594(1594 06 15) nea …   Wikipedia

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