Poussin, Nicolas a French painter of great celebrity, was born near Le Grand-Andely, in Normandy, in 1593 or 1594; was first a pupil of Quintin Varin, then painting pictures for the Church of Grand-Andely, but at the age of eighteen went to Paris, studied under Ferdinand Elle, the Flemish painter, and others; but chiefly improved himself by drawing from casts and drawings and prints after Raffaelle and Julio Romano in the collection of M. Courtois, who accorded him access to them. After a long and hard struggle, he attained the object of his desire-namely, the means of visiting Rome. He was thirty years of age when he arrived there, and a considerable period elapsed after that before he obtained much employment. At length, however, he received several important commissions from the cardinal Barberini which he executed so successfully that he afterwards rapidly acquired fame and fortune. After an absence of sixteen years he returned to Paris with M. de Chantelou, and was introduced by cardinal Richelieu to Louis XIII, who appointed him his painter in ordinary, and gave him apartments in the Tuileries. But while away at Rome, preparatory to removal to Paris, the king died, and Poussin abandoned the proposed return to France. He died at Rome in 1665 after a most successful career. His pictures have been compared with colored bass-reliefs, a term not inexpressive of his style. His peculiar leaning to this sculpturesque treatment may in some measure be explained by his close intimacy with his friend Duquesnoy, the sculptor, known as Flammingo: they lived in the same house together at Rome. His coloring, compared with his drawing, is inferior and mannered, which is somewhat remarkable, considering that he studied in the school of Domenichino at Rome, whom he regarded as the best painter of his time. The Seven Sacraments, painted twice by Poussin, are among his most celebrated works, and both are now in England-one at Belvoir Castle, the other in the Bridgewater Gallery, London. His works are very numerous; the prints that have been engraved after his principal pictures only amount to upwards of two hundred. Some of his best works are in the British National Gallery, as, The Plague among the Philistines at Ashdod, The Bacchanalian Festival, No. 42, finely engraved by Doo, which constitutes an excellent exponent of his style, with all his merits and peculiarities in perfection. He was especially remarkable as a skilful landscape-painter. His sacred drawing entitled The Finding of Moses has been made popular by autotype, but it is by no means one of his best productions. Poussin has been called a classical painter by Sir Joshua Reynolds, so successfully did he imitate the works of antiquity. See Mrs. Clement, Painters, Sculptors, Architects, etc., p. 467; Spooner, Biog. Dict. s.v.; Bellori, Vita di Nicolo Poussino, etc. (Rome, 1672); Wornum, Descriptive and Historical Catalogue of the National Gallery, etc.
His brother-in-law, GASPAR POUSSIN, also quite a celebrated painter, was born in 1613, and was a pupil of Nicolas. Gaspar devoted himself principally to secular art, but his Sacrifice of Isaac is a notable production. He died in 1675. (J. H. W.)