swallowing man and myth: presence of the green truth

The infiltration of Andelysian luxuriance into Roman severity marks nature’s triumph in Nicolas Poussin’s ultimate works of 1658-1664. As action had once been reduced to immobility, so now it is absorbed by nature’s serenity. Time is swallowed by space, history tapers off into cosmic indifference. Stoicism gives way to, or rather broadens into, a kind of pan naturalism. Poussin, who had found in the arid, vegetationless abstraction of the Mediterranean city an excellent model for the stage on which to parade his humanist truths, now discovered that, in Vauban’s words, “the truth is green.”

---The Seasons, the four canvasses of Poussin's late period now in the Louvre, are an even more extreme personal statement than the 'Landscape with Diana and Orion'. All Poussin's severity and pessimism seem to have disappeared in these paintings, to be replaced by a fusion of all the poetical leanings in his nature. They are the supreme expression, not in this case of mind over eye, but of praise for the beauty and grandeur of nature, now ordered by man, and now defeating man. Spring is luxuriant, Summer a fecund harvest, Autumn the gathering of mellow grapes and Winter the terrible deluge in which all mankind is overwhelmed and destroyed.--- Read More:http://hoocher.com/Nicolas_Poussin/Nicolas_Poussin.htm

In the paintings of his last years, nature’s green truth rules supreme. Men, beasts, and even demigods are drowned in its mounting tide. Once the custodians of perfect proportions, they have been thrown out of scale by the disproportion of nature. Too big or too small, they become transparent or nearly invisible: Polyphemus so huge that he appears to be part of the rock  on which he sits; Hercules so small that he is dwarfed by the cliff on which he stands; Orion so towering that we do not even think of looking for him in the landscape through which he strides. It takes a while to recognize them, as it does to see things in a dark room when one enters it coming from a brightly lit one. Nor is this assimilation of actors, human or divine, by nature the result merely of technical devices. Simply the presence of the green truth has become so overwhelming that it reduces the dramatis personae, “to a green thought in a green shade” ( Andrew Marvell )

---These pictures exist on a complex series of levels, and even the most unscholarly spectator must be aware that Poussin was trying to balance moods and ideas in a much more subtle and intricate way than usual. Firstly, the pictures are a sequence, and they are hung in this way in the Grande Galerie of the Louvre. Spring is cool in tone, Summer and Autumn are warm, and Winter is cold. Even this obvious modulation of tones has its own rhythm. In all but Winter man is seen in harmony with nature, especially in Spring, surely one of the most perfect evocations of Paradise since the subject was attempted by fifteenth-century Netherlands' painters.--- Read More:http://hoocher.com/Nicolas_Poussin/Nicolas_Poussin.htm

If the baroque is disequilibrium, these landscapes could be called baroque, for in them nature surges and swells as the gigantic grapes in Autumn. Like a python, it swallows man and myth. In fact, pythons and other serpents occur frequently in Poussin’s later work as symbols of nature’s sometimes dangerous power over humans. Ultimately, however, nature is beyond good and evil; gods and men, every creature and every thing are at once illumined and submerged, in Summer, as by the pure light of the first day. More than color and form, it is this light which imparts to everything, as William Hazlitt said, “that unimpaired look of original nature, full, solid, large, luxuriant, teeming with life and power.”

---The change is in the completely different handling of paint, which shows his preoccupation with surface texture, and a relaxation of mood. His sense of severity and order has disappeared and been replaced by a mood much more akin to the last works of Titian, such as the Diana and Actaeon in the National Gallery, London. In the New York picture the forms are less rigid than previously, and there is a return to the sense of rhythm last seen in his work of the 1630's. The landscape becomes a much more sensual interpretation of such types of painting as the Diogenes. In Greek mythology Orion was a hunter of gigantic stature. Drunk with wine he once tried to rape a princess of Chios, but her father punished Orion by blinding him. An oracle told him to travel east to the furthest edge of the world where the rays of the rising sun would heal his sight. On his journey he passed the forge of Vulcan whence he carried off an apprentice named Cedalion to guide him on his way. In due course Orion's sight was restored.--- Read More:http://hoocher.com/Nicolas_Poussin/Nicolas_Poussin.htm

Never, until Poussin’s four paintings of the seasons, had that unimpaired look of pristine freshness and vastness been captured so thoroughly by Western painting. In these works, the fertility of field and meadow, the denseness of foliage, the sun’s rays, and the cloud’s rain are inexhaustible. These paintings are windows opened on a promised land. After Poussin, it revealed itself again to a Corot, a Courbet, a Monet, artists who, to paraphrase Bernini, worked from the eye, the belly, and the heart.

What is unique in Poussin’s case is that he worked from the head. Like a surveyor so engrossed in his measurements that he wanders into the thick of the jungle, Poussin’s abstract conceptions led him into the heart of concreteness. His friend Claude Lorrain came to nature ready to love it; he flattered it, pampered it, sentimentalized it, and sang a pretty song about it. The grave Poussin accepted its unfathomable, nourishing silence.

Apollo and Daphne. 1664. John Haber:However, America has always invested the land with myths of decline and fall. It has passed through the Framer's battles between central and agricultural economics, through the advance west, and through the sprawl and disappointments of today. Once the frontier leads only to globalization, what else is left but the imagination? The first great paintings of The Course of Empire, by Thomas Cole, preceded America's ambitions abroad—and the latest, by Ed Ruscha, may well have followed their collapse. In myths like these, nature serves as something left behind, but also something people are fated to reclaim. Poussin understood that arc, but he did not romanticize it as tragedy or comedy. The curators—including Pierre Rosenberg, former director of the Louvre—stress Poussin's magic and all but dismiss his erudition, but can one ever really separate the two? Between observation and idealism, he creates a space for at once rationality and ambiguity. Human instinct comes and goes, but the imagination resumes its sway. Read More:http://www.haberarts.com/poussin.htm

The late landscapes are images of heavenly beauty, and yet many historians today believe that they were born of Poussin’s disgust for the evils of the earth. Certainly, his letters of these years are filled with bitter and angry comments about the political turmoil that beset Europe, especially the Fronde, the civil war that raged in France from 1648 to 1653. For example, in a letter in August 1648 Poussin wrote:

I fear the malignity of our times. Virtue, conscience and religion are banished among men. Nothing but vice, trickery and self-interest re

All is lost. I have lost hope in the existence of Good. Everything is filled with evil.

It was in a state of despair that Poussin turned to making pictures of a more perfect world. Read More:http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2008/apr/17/the-magical-painting-of-poussin/?page=2

Ultimately, Poussin seemed to recognize an original unity or harmony between man and nature. And his later work can be seen as an account of how this relationship between the individual and the material world arises as a unity that later becomes fragmented…


Dialogue with the silence. Nourishing silence.

Hune Margulies:dialogue is often confused with continuos and active participation in affairs of the world. but silence and solitude can also be temporary forms of dialogue. in the case of dialogue with insentient beings, verbal-language plays no role and there is no verbal-language with which to engage in dialogue. non-verbal dialogue is often misconstrued as a form of introspective solitude. franz kafka wrote “you do not need to leave your room. remain sitting at your table and listen. do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. the world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” dialogue with the insentient world requires the ability to just-listen. just-listen means the removal of the ‘it’ filters through which we normally hear the world. and by so doing, the listening becomes itself the dialogue. the world speaks in its own silence. and it is there, in this silence, that we meet the world in-the-between. and it could be too, as kafka says, an encounter of ecstasy. buber spoke of i-thou dialogue with the realm of nature in which our dialogue stands at the threshold of language. the simple approach of allowing the world to speak its own silence, without us imposing on it our own systems of aesthetic values, or exploring it for the purposes of utilization, is the dialogical act of refusing to look at the world as if it were little more than an assemblage of individual and collective ‘its’. we respond ‘thou’ to the world from where we stand, as this is the only place from where the world speaks to us. the world speaks not in its own language, but in its own silence. Read More:http://dialogicalecology.blogspot.com/2011/03/kafka-and-solitude.html

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