Thursday, April 10, 2008

The stones and shadows sigh breaths of amorous fire

The Met has an exhibition at the moment called ‘Poussin and Nature: Arcadian Visions’. The excellent Ionarts blog has an article on it with links to other reviews. I learned from this that Poussin's Landscape with Three Monks (La Solitude) is showing 'outside Serbia for the first time since 1934. One of the curators of the exhibit claims to have seen it hanging in Tito's office'.

There is an interesting description of Poussin’s sensual style of landscape painting in a review by Andrew Butterfield. Poussin originally moved to Rome after the Italian poet Giambattista Marino, based in Paris at the court of Marie de Medici, recognised and encouraged his talent. In Poussin’s paintings in this early period, where the figures still dominate the composition, ‘landscape elements seem to smolder with intense ardor. He achieved this effect by applying the upper layers of paint in relatively thin and rough brush strokes that allowed the red-brown ground layer of paint to show through, giving the entire image a warm and sensual glow. In European poetry the tradition of describing nature with amorous metaphors was an ancient one going back all the way to the Homeric hymns.... Poussin was extremely familiar with this tradition thanks to his friendship with Marino, whose poem L'Adone is a rich repository of the same vein of imagery. The artist read the book with the author, even making illustrations of it at his request, and Marino and Poussin also discussed how to translate the power of poetic language into the visual forms of painting. In L'Adone Marino wrote descriptive passages such as "Even the stones and the shadows of the place/sigh breaths of amorous fire." In his early mythic landscapes Poussin sought to capture the same sense of pathos and inspiration as is conveyed by lush and elevated writing of this kind.’

Nicolas Poussin, Nymph Spied on by Satyrs, c 1627
Source: Wikimedia Commons

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