The Sights and Sounds of 'Landscape With a Calm'

Take an audio tour of Poussin's masterpiece and discover that there's more than meets the eye

By Google Arts & Culture

Landscape with a Calm (1650 - 1651)The J. Paul Getty Museum

Nicolas Poussin is a master of the French baroque landscape. Every tiny detail of his scenes matters as much as any other, despite their large scale. This famous painting, Landscape With a Calm (1681), seems very peaceful. But look and listen; there's more than meets the eye...

Poussin (1)

The idyllic, pastoral feel of the painting is created by showing ordinary people going about their ordinary business in a large, slow world. The light suggests that day is dawning. This goatherd and his flock are still in shadow, wandering the path to the lake. 

Poussin (2a)

The morning light is just cresting onto the backs of these sheep and their shepherds. It picks out one lone pipe player sending his solo off into the calm distance. The reflections in the still water enhance the feeling of ease.

Poussin (3)

The awe-inspiring scale of the painting is part of what gives it a sense of hush and calm. Way up on the mountainside there are crackling flames, smoke blowing in the wind. Look closely and you can see another marble-white citadel sitting between the mountain peaks. 

Poussin (4)

The closer city, on the opposite bank of the lake, is an architectural marvel. Its residents are just waking up. You can see them in windows and on the balustrades, picked out with tiny brushstrokes. Maybe you begin to hear their voices floating across the lake. 

Poussin (5a)

But what's this? The serenity of the painting has a jarring element here in the extreme left. A horse and rider make haste out of the frame. Is he off to deliver some urgent news, or simply out for a joyful gallop? Either way, his hurry and his mystery disturb the peace...

Enjoyed your audio tour of Poussin's Landscape With a Calm? Discover more sights and sounds in Georges Seurat's Paris park.  

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