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Nicolas Poussin, the Art-- Skeel

Two final stray thoughts on the Nicolas Poussin exhibit at the Met (now over, alas), without the attempt to link the art to current events:

1) According to the wall text, “Poussin studied nature less to imitate its surface effects than to understand its laws.” In the landscapes featured in the show, Poussin seems to take nature apart and reconstruct it. The landscapes and still-lifes of the post-impressionist French artist Paul Cezanne have a somewhat similar architectonic qualify, though he omits the mythological narratives. I wonder if this is part of what Cezanne meant when he said, more than two centuries after Poussin, that he intended “to do Poussin all over again from nature.”

2) In my view, the single most moving image in the entire exhibit was one of the smallest, one of Poussin’s late drawings (catalogue no.64). As Poussin’s health declined, he found it more and more difficult to hold his brush, pen or pencil steady. The drawing is a maze of vibrating lines, with two vibrating figures at the center. It’s difficult to determine who the figures are– although the drawing is called “Two Hermits in a Landscape,” I imagined them as Jesus and the woman at the well from the Bible– but somehow the entire drawing seems to move and stand still at the same time. I saw this drawing one day and Bill's most recent post (“Living Weak”) the next: they seem to me to have come from the same place.

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