Friday, April 1, 2011

40 Days of Artists: Poussin

Today we are taking a trip out of Italy and going to France, at least in terms of an artist's nationality. Nicolas Poussin was born in France, though he spent most of his painting career in Rome as one of the leading figures in classical Baroque painting.
Poussin was about 18 years old when he first began his interest in painting, and he had a very raw beginning in his career in France. He was not very experienced and did not know where or how to find a suitable master to study under, so he started out studying under several different painters. As it turns out, he was not very successful and had become ill, so he ended up returning home to recover. Later on, he would bounce back on his feet with a new plan.
The following year, Poussin returned to his studies, and had decided to pursue study in Rome, where he knew he would find adequate work as a painter. As it turns out, the court poet for Marie de Medicis, Giambattista Marino, discovered Poussin and commissioned him for a series of drawings. Poussin managed to have a commission from St. Peter's for an altarpiece, though it could not compete with the Italian masters of the day. Poussin's stay in Rome would influence him in themes of classical antiquity and mythology, and he would paint several mythological paintings under the influence of Titian, with a poetic Venetian feel to them in terms of color and painting handling.
By the 1630s, Poussin turned back to his classical influence from Raphael, and painted several religious scenes that he felt had deep moral significance. Several of which were Old Testament scenes, though he also painted traditional Catholic themes - particularly that of his Seven Sacraments series.
Poussin returned to Paris in 1640 reluctantly, as he was sought out by the court of Louis XIII for some commissions for the Louvre palace. The pieces he completed did not receive the greatest praise that Poussin had expected. This was either because they did not match the style that the court was expecting, or because Poussin just simply did not want to be there. Whatever the reason, Poussin returned to Rome in 1642 where he remained until his death in 1665. Though French in origin, Poussin was certainly destined to be a major figure in Italian classical Baroque. It was only later in the 17th century after his death that his style would be appreciated and glorified in his native land by the French Academy.

Nicolas Poussin
The Holy Family with St. Elizabeth and John the Baptist
oil on canvas
172 x 134 cm.
c. 1655

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