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Poussin, Nicolas locked

(b Les Andelys, Normandy, June 1594; d Rome, Nov 19, 1665).
  • Hugh Brigstocke

Extract

French painter and draughtsman, active in Italy (see fig.). His supreme achievement as a painter lies in his unrivalled but hard-won capacity to subordinate dramatic narrative and the expression of extreme states of human passions to the formal harmony of designs based on the beauty and precision of abstract forms. The development of his art towards this end was focused on the search for a point of equilibrium and synthesis between the forces of the Classical and the Baroque around which most critical debate in Rome was concentrated during the 1630s. Poussin did not aspire to the classicism of Raphael’s idealized human forms or Michelangelo’s re-embodiment of the physical splendours of the antique world, nor did he attempt to vie with the bravura and energy of Annibale Carracci’s treatment of Classical mythology in the Galleria of the Palazzo Farnese in Rome. Equally he was not concerned with the illusionistic effects and heightened emotionalism of Baroque artists such as Pietro da Cortona and Lanfranco. He was concerned above all with interpreting his subject-matter, whether Classical or religious, and telling a story with the greatest possible concentration of emotional response, transcending any single moment in a narrative sequence but communicating and crystallizing every underlying passion into a comprehensive image....

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