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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
Email: [email protected] / Phone: +44 7429 011000

Discover more about the man behind the art with these insightful quotes both from and about Nicolas Poussin

Famous Quotes by Nicolas Poussin

Colours in painting are as allurements for persuading the eyes, as the sweetness of meter is in poetry.

Drawing is the skeleton of what you do and color is its flash.

It is impossible to work at the same time upon frontispieces of books: a Virgin: at the picture for the congregation of St. Louis, at the designs for the gallery, and for the king's tapestry! I have only a feeble head, and am not aided by anyone!

I neglected nothing.

The purpose of art is delectation.

The idea of beauty does not descend into matter unless this is prepared as carefully as possible. This preparation consists of three things: arrangement, measure, and aspect or form.

The colours in the paintings are like the illusions that convince the eyes, similar to the beauty of the verses in poetry.

Colour in painting lures the eyes as verses do in poetry.

The idea of beauty descends in such a way that it is prepared to as great an extent as possible. This preparation consists of three things: order, mode and type or form. The order signifies the interval between the parts; the mode relates to the quantity, the form consists of lines and colours. The order is not enough, neither is the interval between the parts; nor does it suffice for all of the parts of the body to have their natural place, if they are not joined by the mode, which gives each part the grandeur that it is due, in proportion with the body, and if they are not in competition with the type, in such a way that the lines are formed with grace, and neighbour one another in a suave accord between light and shade. And from all of this, it appears quite plainly that beauty is far from the material of the body, to which it never comes close unless placed there by immaterial preparations. And thus we can conclude that painting is none other than an idea of immaterial things and that if it shows the body, it merely represents the order, and the mode according to which things are composed, and that it is more attentive to the idea of beauty than to any other. And from there some wanted for this idea to be the only marking and, one could say, the aim of all good painters, and for painting to be the lover of beauty and the queen of art.

Quotes about Nicolas Poussin

The Louvre is rich in Poussin. It has no less than 39 canvases by this austere, laborious and productive master, from which we can define the philosophy of painting. All of his compositions are marked with the seal of good sense, rectitude and will. If the eye still is not satisfied with his paintings, reasoning shall never come back into play.

Théophile Gautier

Poussin placed the bar very high; one cannot penetrate one’s world easily. Even though he remains the favourite artist of many painters and art historians, even though his prestige among amateurs is immense, he shall remain difficult to comprehend for a large proportion of people. It is not possible to look at his paintings quickly; it requires effort, and this effort takes time.

Pierre Rosenberg

Mr Poussin wanted to depict – through the movement of parts at the top of the face – the sweetness and tranquillity enjoyed by those in a perfect state of grace and – through the parts at the bottom – the contempt and aversion that they have for things of the world.

Charles Le Brun

Imagine Poussin redone entirely in nature: that’s classicism as I understand it. What I will not admit is that it is classicism that limits you. I want visiting a master to take me back to myself; every time that I leave Poussin’s, I have a better knowledge of who I am.

Paul Cézanne

Nicolas Poussin believed that virtue and wisdom could be transmitted to humanity by paintings. All of his works, in particular those of his later years, illustrate this conviction. Yet nevertheless, his paintings do not easily offer themselves up for viewing. Apart from in a few admirable drawings, they do not reveal this or that side of nature, but develop themes under a sublime register which, by definition, cannot be derived from important models: not those of landscapes, if not those that are heroic, nor those of still lives in his works. Despite his claims, and contrary to Velázquez, enjoyment is not his aim.

Avigdor Arikha