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Artists Nicolas Poussin
Nicolas Poussin Photo

Nicolas Poussin

French Painter

Movement: The Baroque

Born: June 1594 - Les Andelys, Normandy

Died: 19 November 1665 - Rome, Papal States

Nicolas Poussin Timeline

Quotes

"The colours in the paintings are like the illusions that convince the eyes, similar to the beauty of the verses in poetry."
Nicolas Poussin
"And thus we can conclude that painting is none other than an idea of immaterial things and that if it shows the body, it merely represents the order, and the mode according to which things are composed, and that it is more attentive to the idea of beauty than to any other."
Nicolas Poussin
"Drawing is the skeleton of what you do and colour is its flesh".
Nicolas Poussin
"The purpose of art is delectation".
Nicolas Poussin

"I fear the malignity of our times. Virtue, conscience and religion are banished among men. Nothing but vice, trickery and self-interest reign. All is lost. I have lost hope in the existence of Good. Everything is filled with evil."

Synopsis

A Frenchman who spent almost his entire working life in Rome, Nicolas Poussin is considered the founder of the French classical tradition. He specialized in scenes from the Bible, ancient history, and mythology and his canvases are revered for their narrative intensity and their rational and ordered approach to composition. Poussin is admired for his strong use of color and his inclination to prioritize the cerebral over the emotional. He was able to demonstrate that art could be an intellectual pursuit and through his layering of meaning he produced paintings of extraordinary dramatic depth and allegorical complexity. Towards the latter part of his career, Poussin's art submitted to a further transformation as he diversified to depict landscapes and a series of pantheistic allegories that were expressed through the harmonious forces of nature. Though his reputation was downgraded in the first half of the 18th century, Poussin enjoyed something of a rebirth in the second half of that century when the Neoclassicist Jacques-Louis David and his followers championed Poussin's style above all other Classicists. Poussin's reputation has remained buoyant ever since.

Key Ideas

By the early 1630s, Poussin had rejected the expressive Mannerist style in favor of a more controlled approach to composition. Taking his lead from Classicism and Raphael over Venice and Titian, Poussin demonstrated his aspiration to use painting to communicate concepts and ideals through the fusion of different mythological and classical themes. He wanted his paintings to engage the spectator by making extra demands of their powers of reflection.
Poussin developed and practiced a highly symmetric approach. His precise geometrical organization, coupled with visual allegories, borrowed from the Hellenic philosophy of Stoicism. Poussin wanted to convey universal ideas about human experience and existence. He believed that we are all subject to forces outside our control and the only way to a contented existence was through logical thought and personal self-control.
In his later paintings Poussin turned to a darker palette and freer compositional formations to represent the relationship between the natural environment and the mind. He painted expressive landscapes as a way of communicating conflicted or untamed human emotions. Poussin hoped that this would bring about a higher cerebral connection with his spectator.
Nicolas Poussin Photo

Nicolas Poussin was born near the town in Les Andelys in Normandy in 1594. He was the child of a noble family who had fallen on hard times. He was schooled in many subjects, including Latin and letters, but showed a talent for drawing (he was apparently scolded by his teachers for doodling in his books). The French Baroque painter Quentin Varin came across his work whilst passing through Poussin's town and encouraged him to go into painting professionally. His parents, however, did not agree which led the young Poussin to run away to Paris in 1612 aged just 18.

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Nicolas Poussin
Interactive chart with Nicolas Poussin's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

TitianTitian
RaphaelRaphael

Personal Contacts

Domenichino
Jacques Stella

Movements

Classical ArtClassical Art
The BaroqueThe Baroque

Influences on Artist
Nicolas Poussin
Nicolas Poussin
Years Worked: 1612 - 1665
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Paul CézannePaul Cézanne
Cy TwomblyCy Twombly
Leon KossoffLeon Kossoff
Pablo PicassoPablo Picasso

Personal Contacts

Jacques Stella
Charles Le Brun

Movements

NeoclassicismNeoclassicism
RomanticismRomanticism

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Content compiled and written by Katie Da Cunha Lewin

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Katie Da Cunha Lewin
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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