POUSSIN, Nicolas
(b. 1594, Les Andelys, d. 1665, Roma)

Landscape with the Funeral of Phocion

Oil on canvas, 114 x 175 cm
National Museum of Wales, Cardiff (on loan)

From 1648 come the two Phocion landscapes, the Funeral of Phocion (Earl of Plymouth loan to the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff) and the Gathering of the Ashes of Phocion, now in the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool. Painted as a pair, both pictures are constructed exactly like a stage set. Perhaps it was because this way of creating a landscape was very theoretical that such compositions were imitated so widely; they were seen as the proper way to paint landscape - by construction rather than by observation. The scenes are of great tragedy: in one the good General Phocion has been wrongly accused by the citizens of Athens and sentenced to death, and in the other his grieving widow collects his ashes. The deep melancholy of these two pictures again indicates Poussin's determination to make the mind exercise thought rather than imagination.