The Easel

12th October 2021

Poussin and the Dance review, National Gallery: A youthful, light-hearted look at the French painter

Poussin, the “father of French painting”, has a reputation for “emotionally remote”, even “stuffy” works. Well, that’s not the whole story. At age 30, Poussin went to Rome. Inspired by its ancient statues and sensual lifestyle, he suddenly started painting lighthearted – even bawdy – dance scenes. His later career returned to serious and sombre but, for a decade, Poussin painted “post-Renaissance rave art”. His “austerely beautiful” art was, for a time, not quite so inscrutable.

The Artist Paints Herself

From a recent book, three self-portraits by women artists active in the 17th century. Before her early death, Sirani’s self portraits showed her beauty – less self-flattery than a way to emphasise agency. Anguissola fearlessly showed herself in old age, a pushback against expectations that she portray idealized feminine youth. Carriera’s “brutally honest” image of herself in middle age is an “embodiment of the passing of the seasons, as if she were not only a woman but a landscape as well.”.