The Museo del Prado in Madrid has an excellent sample of the art of the great French painter of the Baroque, Nicolas Poussin (1594 – 1665), considered the great European representative of Classicism. And among the different works that the Madrid museum treasures there are several landscapes, each one with very striking elements, as is the case of this canvas made between 1648 and 1651 that bears a simple descriptive title: Landscape with buildings.
Landscape with Buildings by Poussin
Poussin included landscapes in almost all his narrative works, many of them with mythological themes like his Orpheus and his Eurydice. And he also created paintings that were pure landscape, although there used to be more or less prominent narrative elements. For example, on this occasion it is speculated that he wanted to recreate the journey of the GreekDiogenes from Sinopeto Athens
Diogenes, a philosopher of the fourth century BC, is considered a symbol of honesty and also of opposition to artifice. And it is that his thought, and also his way of life, was based on the renunciation of the unnecessary and luxuries. And here we would see him resting on his trip, enjoying the views of the valley and happy with that contemplation. Although it is still an interpretation of the work, since there are not too many clues to find the literature that the painter wanted to include. Just a few small figures scatteredthrough a bucolic space, in which both the greenery of the vegetation and the buildings scattered throughout the canvas attract attention.
The truth is that it doesn't need a narrative character to make the painting interesting. It is a landscape of Poussin and as such it is a truly monumental landscape. It is known that the painter since he went toRome, the city where he would die, he would go for a walk around the Italian capital, and during those walks he would take notes of the places that fascinated him
And with those notes and sketches later he would study his paintings. There is no improvisation, nor impressions. His way of working was different. He took notes and with it, after a process of reflection, he composed the painting. There was no need to make a concrete and real view, he could create the whole from pieces from various places and fill in the gaps with his imagination
They are views that convey a certain melancholy, but also splendor or vitality. And as is the case in this Landscape with buildings it usually includes small figures, sometimes they are characters like in this case, and on other occasions they are statues of classical bearing, since one of the intentions de Poussin was always to portray the possession of the Antiquity, although of course at all times endowed with an undeniable formal beauty.