Sunday, April 15, 2007


Born to Norman peasants, Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665) went to Paris in 1612, working with Mannerist artists and collaborating with Philippe de Champaigne. In Rome by 1624, he worked in Domenichino's studio, absorbing his composition and cool colors. Poussin's art developed slowly.

In 1640 Louis XIII persuaded him to supervise a large decorative project in Paris, but Poussin soon returned to Rome, suited neither for large projects nor for court intrigue and competition. He usually painted what he chose, on speculation rather than commission .

His pictures, rather than pupils, shaped European art for generations. Poussin was the chief formulator of the French classical tradition in painting. By the mid-1630s, he began exploring a serene, classical style inspired by Raphael and antiquity, emphasizing form and moral content. His late works are essays in solid geometry.

This Holy Family with the Infant St. John the Baptist and St. Elizabeth painted about 1651 was sold on auction in 1981 by the Duke of Devonshire, heir to the Chatsworth estate, for 1.8 million ($3.6 million) to D.Wildenstein, the famous and powerful Parisian art dealer. It is now part of the The Cleveland Museum of Art collections.

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