Poussin Masterpieces Vandalised At London’s National Gallery

Man arrested after spraying works with red paint

Two paintings by the French old master, Nicholas Poussin have been vandalised with red spray paint at the National Gallery in London. The paintings are part of the gallery’s permanent collection and are hung in room 19 at the Trafalgar Square institution. A report which was released this afternoon stated that a gallery assistant caught a man spraying the internationally renowned works with an aerosol can. The Adoration of the Golden Calf and The Adoration of the Shepherds were both painted between 1633 and 1634. The works were damaged just after 4:00pm on Sunday. Police were called immediately and a man was arrested. He is now in custody, a wittness stated that “He just stood there on his own. He seemed proud of what he had done, giving a verbal protest – some kind of explanation in French as to why he had done it – and then just stood there waiting to be arrested. At no point did he try to escape. the suspect seemed to be suffering from mental health problems”. The gallery said that Immediate action by the gallery’s conservation staff has meant that no lasting damage was sustained.

Nicolas Poussin was born 15 June 1594 and died 19 November 1665. He  was a French painter working in the classical style. His work predominantly features clarity, logic, and order, and favors line over color. It serves as an alternative to the dominant Baroque style of the 17th century. Until the 20th century he remained the major inspiration for such classically-oriented artists as Jacques-Louis David, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres and even Post Impressionist, Paul Cézanne. Poussin spent most of his working life in Rome, except for a short period when Cardinal Richelieu ordered him back to France to serve as First Painter to the King. From the late 1630s he began to paint landscapes and his early work was influenced by Venetian art, specifically the painter Titian. The artist later turned to painting religious and allegorical works.Throughout his life Poussin stood apart from the popular tendency toward the decorative in French art of his time. In Poussin’s works a survival of the impulses of the Renaissance is coupled with conscious reference to the art of classical antiquity as the standard of excellence. His goal was clarity of expression achieved by disegno or ‘nobility of design’ in preference to colore or color. Perhaps his concern with disegno can best be seen in the line engraved copies of his works; among the many who reproduced his paintings, some of the most successful are Audran, Claudine Stella, Picart and Pesne. Themes of tragedy and death are prevalent in Poussin’s work.[13] Et in Arcadia ego, a subject he painted twice (second version is seen at right), exemplifies his cerebral approach. In this composition, idealized shepherds examine a tomb inscribed with the title phrase, which is usually interpreted as a memento mori: “Even in Arcadia I exist”, as if spoken by personified Death. Poussin intended his figures to “display the most distilled and most typical attitude and emotion for the role they were playing”, but he was concerned with emotion “in a generalized and not specific way. The works have now been re-hung in their usual place.

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