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ARTS 1A: Document Analysis 2

Nicolas Poussin

Read the following excerpt from a primary source document and address the questions
which follow in your notebook.

Excerpts from an unfinished treatise by seventeenth-century French artist Nicolas
Poussin

The first thing that, as the foundation of all others, is required, is that the subject matter
shall be grand, as are battles, heroic actions, and divine things. But assuming that the
subject on which the painter is laboring is grand, his next consideration is to keep away
from details to the best of his abilities, lest he offend against the dignity of historical
painting by passing over with a hasty brush things magnificent and grand, and lingering
amid vulgar and slight ones.

. . . the painter is required to exercise not only art in giving form to his matter, but
judgment in appraising it, and he must choose a subject that will naturally admit every
ornament and perfection. Those who choose offensive subjects take refuge in them
because of the weakness of their talents. But good painters shall avoid crude and lowly
subjects. . . .

As for the thought, it is but an offspring of the mind laboring on things. . . . The design of
a scene shall be such as will bring out the thought embodied in the scene. . . . The
structure or arrangement of the parts shall not be farfetched, not strained, not laborious,
but lifelike and natural. . . .

Color in painting exists as pleasure for persuading the eyes.

* * *

Turn to the next page.

In your notebook write a response to each of the following questions. As part of each your
response, practice quoting from this document—that is, literally place “quotation” marks
around something that is stated, as part of your answer to each question.

After completing your written responses to the questions below, keep them in your notes
portfolio to use during our upcoming quiz, your analysis paper, and our exams.

1. Which three subjects did Poussin include in his definition of the “grand manner”?

2. Poussin suggested that artists who paint grand subjects should “keep away from

details.” Why?

3. Poussin believed that painters who chose offensive subjects did so for what reason?

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