Landscape with a Calm

Landscape with a Calm: Nicolas Poussin

Landscape with a Calm is a 1651 painting by French Baroque artist Nicolas Poussin who specialized in the classical style and worked for most of his life in Rome. This work is located in the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California in the United States.

Analysis of Landscape with a Calm

Landscape with a Calm (1651) is a broad composition by Nicolas Poussin showing a vision of an enjoyable countryside within sight of a city’s walls.

In this scene of suggestive calm we must appreciate, first of all, the strong presence of dynamic elements at every register: from the foreground with a goatherd and his animals, passing over a dashing rider on horseback on the far left, and an imposing train of cows traversing the shallows prodded by two peasants in the medium distance, finishing up with the mass of clouds in the sky above, which are laden with precipitation and black in parts.

What truly establishes the calmness of this scene is the spirit that we intuit inside all of these moving forces. These animals, people, and atmospheric elements are not rushing anywhere.

We are encouraged, therefore, to enjoy their presence inside a green surround which Poussin perceived as carrying the essential quality of calmness. (Note the way that the crystalline waters at the center do not yet reflect the incoming clouds, thus supplying the impression that, for the moment, all things are indeed calm.)

Many of Poussin’s landscapes contain the name of a historical or mythological character situated inside a chiefly atmospheric context and imagined according to the painter’s fancy. They bear such names as “Landscape with Orpheus and Eurydice” and “Landscape with Diogenes”. We are therefore led, in this case, to imagine the Calm itself as a presence, perhaps conjured up the compound of elements that the painter has laid out for us.

Landscape with a Calm emerges as a fruit of Poussin’s study of the Roman countryside and of his contact with painter Claude Lorrain. It ought to be considered alongside its pendant, Landscape with a Storm.

Nicolas Poussin

Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665) was a French painter who is widely considered to be one of the most important artists of the Baroque era. Poussin’s works are known for their classical style, strong composition, and careful attention to detail.

Born in Les Andelys, Normandy, France, Poussin moved to Paris at a young age and began studying art with a minor artist named Quentin Varin. He later spent several years in Rome, where he studied the works of the great masters of the Italian Renaissance, including Raphael and Michelangelo. It was during this time that Poussin developed his interest in classical mythology and the works of the ancient Greeks and Romans, which would become a recurring theme in his paintings.

Poussin’s early works were heavily influenced by the Baroque style of his contemporaries, but over time, he developed a more classical and restrained approach to painting. His mature style is characterized by precise draftsmanship, an emphasis on clarity and order, and subtle use of color.

One of Poussin’s most famous works is the painting “Et in Arcadia Ego” (also known as “The Arcadian Shepherds”), which depicts a group of shepherds gathered around a tomb in a pastoral landscape. The painting’s Latin title, which translates to “Even in Arcadia, there am I,” has been interpreted in a variety of ways over the years, with some seeing it as a meditation on mortality and others as a tribute to the ideal of the noble, pastoral life.

Poussin’s other notable works include “The Rape of the Sabine Women,” a dramatic depiction of a legendary incident from Roman history; “The Triumph of Pan,” which features the god of nature in a lush, woodland setting; and “The Death of Germanicus,” a tragic scene from the life of the Roman general Germanicus.

Despite his reputation as a master of classical painting, Poussin struggled to gain recognition during his lifetime. He was largely overlooked by the French art establishment, which preferred the more decorative and ornamental works of the Rococo period. However, his influence was felt by a number of later artists, including Jacques-Louis David, who was inspired by Poussin’s clarity and precision in his own neoclassical paintings.

Poussin remained in Rome for most of his life, and his works are still highly valued today. He was buried in the church of San Lorenzo in Lucina in Rome, and his tomb bears the inscription “Poussin, the most noble painter of the French nation.”

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