by Nicolas Poussin
This person is associated with: Baroque, Classicism
French classical painter.
Poussin was born in Les Andelys, a small town on the Seine, about 32 kilometres from Paris. In 1612 at the age of 18 years he made his first contact with contemporary art through the arrival in his home town of a minor artist, Quentin Varin, who had been commissioned to paint three altarpieces for the town church.
Poussin later moved to Paris where he was able to study classical art before moving to Rome in 1624 where he encountered antique buildings and Renaissance art. He had previously met the poet Giambattsita Marino who commissioned some drawings from Poussin; this led him into the circle of Cassiano del Pozzo who was to become his most faithful patron during his early years in Rome. Pozzo was a man of wide interests, including the natural sciences as well as art history and his contacts included Galileo and Kepler. Poussin was able to acquire a wide range of knowledge which was rare, if not unique, among artists at that time and this was reflected in his paintings. For 15 years Poussin was primarily dependent for his commissions on Pozzo and his circle.
In 1628 Poussin received a commission for an altarpiece in St Peter's (the Matyrdom of St Erasmus now in the Pinacoteca Vaticana). With only measured success Poussin concentrated on small canvases. Poussin's work however matured over the next years due to the works of art that he saw around him. Ancient sculptures exercised a profound effect on his mind and in the 1620s and 1630s Titian's work was of equal importance to the artist. In 1639 Poussin received an invitation to return to France to work for Louis XIII and he arrived in Paris in 1640. But this was not a success and after two years he returned to Rome where he spent the remainder of his life. He became more of a recluse and had built up a small but faithful clientele of Roman and Parisien friends who provided him with many commissions. By this time his style had drifted from Titian to Raphael and the antique as objects of his admiration and imitation.
He died in 1665 and was revered by all art lovers in Rome and France. Poussin's paintings and principles were to remain a standard for the long line of classical artists that followed right into the 19th and 20th centuries, amongst them, Claude Gelée (Lorrain) and the major neo-classical artists in France, including David and Ingres.
During the 1630s, Poussin collaborated with Jean Lemaire who painted several landscapes of his works.
Nicolas Poussin painted at least 250 canvases.
- Jacques Thuillier, Poussin, Paris, Flammarion, 1994.
- Pierre Rosenberg & Louis-Antoine Prat, Nicolas Poussin 1594–1665. Catalogue raisonné des dessins, Milan, Leonardo, 1994.