Pictori philosopho (Blunt, 3), “Painter-philosopher” was a name given to Nicolas Poussin by Serous d’ Agincourt in 1782. Agincourt later found out that the name Pictori philosopho had already been given to the German artist Anton Raphael Mengas.
Nicolas Poussin was born in 1594 in the town of Les Andelys on the Seine. He came from a nobel family that was ruined by religious wars according to Giovanni Pietro Bellori. No actual proof of this has been established his father Jean Poussin was said to have had some descent of the hierarchy. His mother was the daughter of an alderman. His father served in the military under the command of Charles IX, Henry III, and Henry IV were he came home with a small holding and led the life of a peasent. Education in Les Andelys was not that of high caliber top notch schooling, but early biographers report that Poussin learned Latin. The visit of a painter to Les Andelys by the name of Quentin Varin greatly affected Poussin in the early years of his life. The affect of Varin’s short visit to Les Andelys so greatly affected Poussin that he left home that same year.
“He crept secretly out of the house without the knowledge of his parents.”(Blunt, 13)
Upon departure of his home in Les Andelys he traveled to the province capital of Rouen. Once in Rouen he studied for several years under Noel Jouvenet who lived in Rouen at the time. According to biographer Bellori, Poussin arrived in Paris, France in the year 1612, at the latest 1613.
There is not much information on the time of Poussin’s life that he left Rouen and the time that he arrived in Paris. Once in Paris he met a man from Poitou who offered his home to Poussin and treated him with great kindness. Poussin was set to decorate his chateau, but due to the interference of a mother-in-law the project was hung out to dry. This left Poussin,
“The young artist found himself without money and three hundred miles from Paris.” (Blunt, 13)
He then began the long trek to Paris on foot; he supported himself by painting in small towns that he passed through. He arrived in Paris so ill that he returned to Les Andelys, where he spent a year recovering from his illness. After a years rest Poussin returned to Paris where he built a name for himself as a reputable artist. He made many friends w…
…craments, and especially subjects that refer to baptism (Hibbard, 45).
Poussin believed that virtue and wisdom could be taught to mankind through painting. When he died in 1665, every artist and every lover of painting in Rome revered him. Among the great painters who were most inspired by Poussin’s work was Cezanne, the famous post-impressionist. If Poussin looks back to Raphael and Ancient Rome he points forward to Ingres and Picasso. Poussin painted pictures of total perfection, but those same paintings touch our hearts with their poetry.
Arikha, Avigdor. Nicolas Poussin, The Rape of the Sabines. Houston: Museum of Fine
Blunt, Anthony. Nicolas Poussin, New York: Bollinger Foundation. 1967.
Carrier, David. Poussin’s Paintings. University Park: The Pennsylvannia State
Hibbard, Howard. Poussin: The Holy Family on the Steps. London: Penguin Books Ltd.
Oberhuber, Konrad. Poussin The Early Year in Rome. New York: Hudson Hills Press.