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.

Analysis of Landscape with a Calm

Landscape with a Calm (c. 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.

This work is located in the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California in the United States.

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