Painting: Luminous Logician

Nicolas Poussin was to painting what his 17th century contemporary Descartes was to philosophy: a believer in reason above all. An architect with canvas, he organized his scenes like luminous lessons in logic, seeing structure where skin was and portraying fleshy maenads as marble caryatids. His discipline twice earned him the title of First Painter to the King of France — and the respect of every generation in art.

Cezanne claimed that all he wished to do was "revive Poussin in the contact with nature." Even Picasso, using Poussin as a pianist might an exercise in arpeggios, steadied his nerves...

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