Nicolas Poussin

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Nicolas Poussin was a notable and renowned French painter and draftsmen, who is considered the founder of the French Classical tradition. Poussin’s work is characterised with historical and Biblical depictions as well as famous and dramatic tales from mythology and ancient history.

Nicolas Poussin was born in June 1594, in the town of Les Andelys, Normandy, France. Poussin received his basic education in Les Andelys, which included lessons in Latin. Young Nicolas had absolutely no interest in art and showed no inclination towards the pursuit of artistic education until the prolific and notable pointer, Quentin Varin, visited the town, and upon viewing some of Nicolas’ sketches, he decided to take the young boy under his wing, and gave his first artistic training.

Upon reaching the age of 18, Poussin ran away from home and travelled all the way to Paris, where he joined the studio of the famous Flemish painter, Ferdinand Elle, and later, he began working at the workshop of Georges Lallemand. Poussin ’s first artistic commission came from Giambattista Marino, the court poet of the Medici family at Lyon, who commissioned him to design illustrations for his poem, ‘Adone’, and a series of illustrations for a projected edition of Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses’. In 1624, Poussin traveled to Rome for the first time in his life, and this is where great events were destined to change his life and establish his career.

In Rome, Poussin benefited from the illustrious patronage of the Cardinal Francesco Barberini and other influential personalities from his circles. During this period, he worked on two major commissions that led to the creation of two of his most iconic and captivating masterpieces, ‘The Barberini Death of Germanicus’, and ‘The Martyrdom of St. Erasmus’. His work began garnering immense critical acclaim and commercial success, and he secured the patronage of influential and prominent personalities of Rome such as the Cardinal Omodei, who commissioned him for ‘The Triumphs of Flora’, the Cardinal de Richelieu, for whom he made a Bacchanal, Vincenzo Giustiniani, who commissioned him for the ‘Massacre of the Innocents’, and Cassiano dal Pozzo, who commissioned the first series of the ‘Seven Sacraments’, among others.

In 1640, Poussin returned to France, where Louis XIII conferred him the title of First Painter in Ordinary. He produced several iconic and remarkable paintings for the royal chapels, which include, ‘the Last Supper’, the series of ‘Labors of Hercules’, ‘The Triumph of Truth’, and eight cartoons for the Gobelins manufactory, among others. In 1643, disillusioned by Parisian life, Poussin decided to return to Rome, where he began working on the second series of the ‘Seven Sacraments’, commissioned by de Chantelou, along with the ‘Landscape with Diogenes’. In 1649, he produced the ‘Vision of St Paul’, and later in 1651, he developed the ‘Holy Family’, which was commissioned by Duc de Crequy.

After 1650, his health began declining, and his painting endeavors were threatened by a tremor in the hand that caused serious trembling. Nicolas Poussin passed away on November 19, 1665, in Rome.

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