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Religious pieces.-Poussin.-Predilection for the antique.
beauty. He often repeated his compositions, making his pupils copy them, and afterwards retouching them with his own hand. His religious pieces were few, and in the same taste; troops of ministering angels supplied the place of the cupids. The school of his rival, Guido, censured his style as weak and effeminate, inelegant in his male, and monotonous in his youthful figures. There are, however, several of his paintings in oil as well as fresco, in different parts of Italy, at Florence, Bologna, Osimo, Rimini, &c, which prove that he had the talent for works of a higher style, though his inclination led him to an humbler department.
Nicolas Poussin was born at Audely, in Normandy, in the year 1594; and though a Frenchman, was grafted on the Roman stock. He studied under Quintin Varin, a French painter of mediocrity. He found on his arrival in Italy, that he had more to unlearn than to follow, of his master's principles, renounced the national character, and not only, with the greatest ardour, adopted, but suffered himself to be wholly absorbed by the antique. Such was his attachment to the ancients, that it may be said he less imitated their spirit, than copied their relics, and painted sculpture; the costume, the mythology, the rites of antiquity, were his element; his scenery, his landscapes, are pure classic ground. He has left specimens to show that he was sometimes sublime, and often in the highest degree pathetic; but history, in the strictest sense, was his property, and in that he ought to be followed. At first he endeavoured to imitate the colouring of Titian; but when he became an enthusiastic admirer of Raphael
Accuracy-Landscapes as backgrounds.
and the antique, his tone altered, and his carnations had no longer the warmth which distinguished his early productions.
In perspective and architecture he was perfectly accomplished; and this enabled him to give a captivating air of grandeur to his landscapes, the scenes and situations of which were highly pleasing, and received peculiar beauty from the novelty of the objects introduced, the variety of the trees, buildings, and other ornaments; every part being lightly and delicately touched, and exhibiting equal truth and judgment. By his predominant attachment to the antique, the historical compositions of Poussin are very accurate, and the airs and attitudes of his figures are also generally beautiful, though not always graceful; for by neglecting to study nature with due attention, his forms want that variety which alone gives entertainment and delight. It is remarked by a judicious critic, that, "though Poussin abstracted the theory of his proportions from the antique, he is seldom uniform and pure in his style of design, ideal only in parts, and oftener so in female than in male characters; he supplies antique torsoes with limbs and extremities transmitted from the model. As a colourist he was extremely unequal; into the Deluge and the Plague of the Philistines he transfused the very hues of the elements whose ravages he represented, while numbers of his other pictures are deformed by crudity and patches. His excellence in landscape is universally acknowledged, and when it is the chief object of his picture, precludes all censure; but considered as the scene or background of an historic subject, the ease with which he executed, and the predilection which he had for it, often made him give it an importance which it ought not to have; it divides our attention, and from an accessory becomes a principal. Poussin died at Rome, in 1665, aged seventy-one.
Claude. Incessant examination of nature.
Claude Gélée was born at Lorraine, in 1600, but is usually ranked among Italian artists. In the early part of his life he showed no symptoms of that astonishing genius, which, in his more advanced years, attracted the admiration of the world. He was very little indebted to any master for instruction, except Angostino Tassi, from whom he learned the rules of perspective, and the method of preparing his colours. But though at first he with difficulty comprehended the rudiments of his art, yet in the progress of his studies his mind expanded, his ideas improved, his imagination became more lively, and his industry was indefatigable. He searched for true principles, by an incessant examination of nature, usually studying in the open fields, where he frequently continued from sunrise till the dusk of the evening, sketching whatever he thought beautiful or striking. Every curious tinge of light, on all kinds of objects, he marked in his sketches with a similar colour, by which means he gave his landscapes such an appearance of nature, as has rarely been equalled by any artist.
Sandrart relates that Claude used to explain to him, as they walked through the fields, the causes of the different appearances of the same prospect, at different hours of the day, from the reflections or refractions of light, from dews or vapours in the evening or morning, with all the precision of a philosopher. He worked on his pictures with great care, endeavouring to bring them to perfection by touching them over and over again; and if the performance did not answer his idea, he would alter, deface, and repaint it several times, till it corresponded with the image pictured in his mind. But whatever struck his imagination while he observed nature abroad, was so strongly impressed on
Salvator.-Destroying a picture.
his memory, that on his return home he never failed to make the happiest use of it. His skies were warm and full of lustre, and every object is properly illumined. His distances are admirable, and in every part a delightful union and harmony never fail to excite our admiration. His invention is pleasing, his colouring delicate, and his tints have such an agreeable sweetness and variety as to have been but imperfectly imitated by the best subsequent artists, and have never been equalled. He frequently gave an uncommon tenderness to his unfinished trees, by glazing; and in his large compositions, which he painted in fresco, he was so exact, that the distinct species of every tree might readily be distinguished.
This famous painter was born at Naples, in 1614. He was brought up with Francesco Francanzano, a painter to whom he was related; but while with him, was forced, for a livelihood, to sell his drawings about the streets. But after he became celebrated, he would sell none of his paintings but at an exorbitant price. A person of great wealth had been long treating with him for a large landscape, and every time he came Salvator raised the price one hundred crowns. The gentleman expressed his surprise, but the painter told him that with all his riches he could not purchase it, and to put an end to his importunities, destroyed the picture before his eyes.
He lived to the age of 59. In the sister arts of poetry and painting, he was esteemed one of the most excellent masters that Italy produced in the seventeenth century. In the former, his province was satire; in the latter, landscapes, battles, and seaports with figures. Though the talent of Salvator was principally adapted
Flemish and Dutch schools nearly identical.
to small pictures, he filled one of a large size with strikingly sublime objects, of which the Conspiracy of Cataline, in the gallery of Florence, is a proof. But his great excellence lay in landscape; and he delighted in representing scenes of desolation, solitude, and danger; gloomy forests, rocky shores, lonely dells leading to caverns of banditti, Alpine bridges, trees scathed by lightning, and skies lowering with thunder. His figures are wandering peasants, forlorn travellers, shipwrecked sailors, or robbers intent upon prey. He also painted sorcerers and apparitions, of which the principal is the Witch of Endor.
Flemish, Dutch, and Spanish Schools.
THE Flemish school is characterized by splendor of colour, magical chiaroscuro, and learned design; by grandeur of composition, a certain nobleness of air, and strong and natural expression. Such qualities are confined to those artists who devoted themselves to the historical, but as the Flemish school was equally eminent in the subordinate departments, its characteristics, as regards the latter, are nearly identical with the Dutch school, recognizing as their sole guide, individual and common nature—often the lowest and ugliest. In chiaroscuro, and all the requisites of harmony of colour, they equal the excellence of the Flemish and Venetian schools. In impasto, delicacy of touch, contrast, and gradation of tints, exemplified in their treatment of marine-pieces, landscapes, and animals, the Dutch school has not a rival.