I love how with a flick of its wrist, Memorial Day turns on summer. Rain, cold, wind… MEMORIAL DAY… sun! warmth! Summer! It was especially blatant this year. Last week I was bundling up to go outside, this week we’re pulling out our bathing suits and paddleboards. Summer is most definitely here, and I don’t think we’ve ever needed it so desperately!
My guess is that most artists love season changes because they get a fresh new look at their subjects (Monet! Van Gogh!) Nicolas Poussin painted a series obviously named The Four Seasons. Poussin was primarily a landscape painter, which is evident in these paintings, but he incorporated stories from the Bible for each season. Not surprisingly, Spring is the story of Adam and Eve before the fall. Everything is new and cheery! Life is good! But to quote Jon Snow… winter is coming.
|The sun is rising and life is good… for now.|
Poussin uses the story of Ruth and Boaz for summer. This is one of my favorite Bible stories, and I love that Poussin picked it for the world’s most popular season. Boaz was a farmer and aren’t farmers the heroes of summer? This is their season! And if they happen to fall in love with a hot widow working in their field, then all the better! Not to mention, that does not look like fertile soil to me, so props to Boaz for taking a run at farming there.
|Love is in the air!|
Autumn depicts the two spies, who brought word back to the Israelites that the Promised Land was going to be awesome. To prove it, they carried giant grapes back on poles, yelling, “think of the wine we can make with these babies!” Or something like that. Experts think Poussin painted this picture last. That irks the Type-A in me. You have to paint the seasons in some kind of order, Nick!!
|Two out of twelve spies recommend the Promised Land.|
Of course, Noah’s flood is winter. Bleak, depressing, blah. Poor winter always gets the shaft, never mind the sparkling snow, glimmery icicles, sledding, skiing, snowmen, and skating. Says the girl who loves Michigan. It’s a devastating painting. We need more post-flood rainbow pictures, if you ask me. The Deluge, as it is called, is a big deal. Tons of art historians and experts think it’s the greatest painting of all time. They don’t say that about any old painting. Part of their reasoning (that I find most interesting) is that Poussin didn’t go nuts with disaster. The people are just starting to feel nervous, they aren’t panicking yet. We know how the story ends, so their slight unease just breaks the viewers’ hearts even more. Not to mention the snake creeping around on the rocks, and the dark sky. The whole thing is very foreboding.
|Aka: The Deluge. Doom, gloom. Winterfell.|
The Four Seasons was one of Poussin’s last works. He had developed awful tremors in his hands by the time he set to work on this, so it took especially long to make. His poor health caused him to live as a recluse, which feels so relatable right now. He didn’t have assistants helping with his art, which was rare. I’m always happy to discover prominent artists that worked alone.
I hope your week is full of hope, romance, and tasty grapes, with no snakes to be seen!