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257 × 195 × 29 mm
368 pages
241 illustrations, 223 in colour
10 Feb 2020

Poussin as a Painter From Classicism to Abstraction Richard Verdi

Universally regarded as the father of French painting, Nicolas Poussin is arguably the greatest of all painters of that school. Yet Poussin’s reputation has been founded more on the intellectual and philosophical qualities of his art than its sheer visual beauty.

In Poussin as a Painter: From Classicism to Abstraction Richard Verdi redresses the balance, describing and analyzing Poussin’s outstanding gifts as a pictorial storyteller, designer and colourist – in short, on the purely aesthetic (and often abstract) aspects of his art that have inspired so many later painters, from Cezanne to Picasso. The book features more than 220 fine illustrations, the majority in colour, and encompasses all aspects of Poussin’s art from the mid 1620s to his death in 1665. This ground-breaking study gives new insight into Poussin, and is essential reading for all who admire this seminal French painter.

‘Verdi makes a case for Poussin as a painter in the fullest sense of the word. His Poussin thinks, but he does so through composition and color. In twelve lavishly illustrated chapters, Verdi comments on most of the major pieces Poussin made between his earliest surviving painting, a dignified altarpiece showing the Death of the Virgin in 1623, and his last, the unfinished Apollo and Daphne of 1664. Like a successful exhibition, the book makes its arguments through the juxtaposition of images and a detailed commentary. Verdi was for many years the director of the Barber Institute at the University of Birmingham, and put on major Poussin shows at the Royal Academy and the Scottish National Gallery; he writes with the easy authority of a curator sharing the art he knows best.’ — Max Norman, Apollo Magazine

‘Stands out for its original approach . . . Verdi's penetrating analyses of Poussin's compositions, which have the elegance of mathematical proofs, draw on visual parallels between different paintings presented on a single page or over two adjacent pages of the book – one of the most striking features of this publication . . . Verdi's sophisticated, elegant prose is a delight to read. His meticulous eye and astute, insightful analyses will help a new audience discover an artist with a widespread reputation for being difficult. And we know that those who manage to take this first step remain forever captivated by the artistic world of the man Verdi justly describes as France's greatest painter.’ — Art Newspaper

‘Superficial viewers of Nicolas Poussin’s art have tended to describe its maker as a cold academician, a theoretician of sterile classicism. But that’s not how at least one of his contemporaries in Rome thought of the future father of French painting: 'This young man has the inner fire of a devil.' Indeed, if you’ll forgive the somewhat crude analogy, a better way to think of Poussin might be as sort of painterly pressure cooker: trapping the explosive and inchoate energy of life, through his superior intellectual faculties, into an improbably held equipoise and harmony – to often nutritious and delicious effect. Not for nothing have artists as varied as Jacques-Louis David, Eugène Delacroix, Paul Cézanne, Pablo Picasso, the Englishman Euan Uglow, and innumerable others returned, again and again, to Poussin’s work for both instruction and inspiration. In a new monograph on the painter, Verdi embarks on a sustained formal investigation of Poussin’s art, seeking to shed light on just how and why these achievements have had such lasting influence. Those seeking an introduction to the painter and committed disciples alike will find much of use in this well-illustrated volume.’ — The New Criterion

Poussin as a Painter traces in detail Poussin’s evolving approaches to painting through invention, composition and colour, showing how they combine to make his best works both unified and unalterable. By careful forensic analysis of each composition, the author reveals how Poussin’s rigour and discipline forge unity from diversity, and then demonstrates how widely these principles have influenced later painters.’ — Paul Spencer-Longhurst, Editor, Richard Wilson Online, Paul Melon Centre for Studies in British Art

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Richard Verdi is former Professor of Fine Art and Director of the Barber Institute of Fine Arts at the University of Birmingham, UK. His many books include Nicolas Poussin 1594-1665 (1995), The Parrot in Art: From Durer to Elizabeth Butterworth (2007) and Rembrandt’s Themes: Life into Art (2014).


The Artist’s Life
An Introduction to Poussin’s Art
Invention and Composition
Themes Treated Twice
Poussin’s Development as a Coulourist
Colour and Subject
Colour and Composition
The Theory of the Modes
Landscape to 1651
The Late Landscapes
Poussin and his Contemporaries
Poussin and Posterity

List of Illustrations