Poussin: the enigma exposed

In the 330 years since his death, the celebrated 17th-century French artist Nicolas Poussin has been claimed as their own by art historians, intellectuals and artists alike. But the artist remains an enigma. Was he the peintre philosophe suggested by Anthony Blunt, the sensual painter of other scholars or, as more eccentric thought would have it, the key figure in an understanding of long-forgotten arcane mysteries? The Royal Academy's spectacular retrospective of his work will allow you to judge for yourself. Transferred from a successful run in Paris, the exhibition represents only the second time ever (the first was in 1960) that all of Poussin's major paintings will have been seen together. The effect is breathtaking: a stately progress thro ugh the artist's career, from the sombre chiaroscuro and savage subject-matter of the early years, through the pale luminosity of the "blond" period, to the triumph of the two sets of Sacraments and the late, proto-Romantic landscapes. In subject-matter, colour and form he is one of the most fascinating figures in the history of western art. His very ambiguity is the clue to his genius. This is a unique opportunity, not to be missed.

Royal Academy, Piccadilly, W1 (071-439 7438) 19 Jan-9 Apr

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