Poussin And The Dance
National Gallery of London Jusqu’au 2 January
Nicolas Poussin’s paintings tend to be more appreciated than enjoyed. This 17th Century Frenchman moved to Rome in 20s but did not return. He is known for his austere, sometimes distant, art.
However, the National Gallery’s organizers claim that Poussin is misunderstood and that he did not dance much during his first decades in Rome.
See tambourines shaking and wine spilling. Satyrs and Nymphs dance and fall off. An example of this is the Triumph Of Pan.
See how tambourines shake and wine spills in the photos. Watch as satyrs dance and nymphs toss. This is an example of a good example: The Triumph Of Pan, above, 1636.
The scene depicts Bacchus the god wine, in a forest festival. Everyone is enjoying a fun drink and dancing to the end of the festival, which is meant to assure a healthy harvest.
What’s interesting about this painting, though, is that it undermines the show’s thesis as much as it supports it.
Far from jiving about the canvas like drunks at a disco, Poussin’s dozen figures are meticulously composed. The connection between their lithe bodies can be described as wave.
As he matured, Poussin left dances behind and devoted himself to the religious paintings and landscapes for which he’s best known.
His later works weren’t a huge departure from his early ones: what we encounter at the National Gallery is an artist honing his talent for disciplined design.
This show is full of fine works, but it isn’t going to transform anyone’s view of Poussin.