This book hopes it will pose some critical questions of method for the study of the arts. These essays reveal a Nicolas Poussin that has rarely been noticed before. Is that because he has been so honoured as a great classical master – serious painter of serious histories and neo-stoic philosopher – that almost nobody has noticed his humour, or wit. Yet everyone knows his letters to his friend Paul de Chantelou are full of puns. It should not be a surprise that some of his pictures, as this book shows, are endowed with a subtle painterly wit. Both investigations of subject matter and formal analyses have missed it, and art history, has until now been blind to it. What can be done about this?
These essays consist of accumulated observations and thoughts. Many of them will sound familiar to University of Auckland students, because they began as the material of Professor Tony Green’s seminars, from 1969 to 1998. He gratefully acknowledges that without the participation and lively interest of students, this short and not particularly humorous book would not have been written.
“Distinctive in its aims, scrupulous in its method, Poussin’s Humour is a highly nuanced account of how Poussin actually painted. Tony Green’s achievement is to locate Poussin’s thought within his painting practice itself, convincingly demonstrating that the medium of art is truly the message, not its poor servant. Full of thought-provoking insights, and shot through with forensic wit, Poussin’s Humour should be read by anybody interested in this most elusive of artists.” Dr David Packwood, University of Warwick.
About the author: Tony Green is Emeritus Professor of Art History, University of Auckland, New Zealand. He taught European art history of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries at the University of Edinburgh from 1960 to 1969. While in Edinburgh he gave numerous extra-mural classes and, encouraged by Anthony Blunt, worked at a thesis on Nicolas Poussin and the Seven Sacraments, which resulted in a PhD in Fine Arts in 1968.
In 1969 he was appointed founding professor of art history in the University of Auckland. He began to pay serious attention to contemporary painting and sculpture and especially to the practices of his New Zealand contemporaries He wrote many reviews and articles for New Zealand periodicals and exhibition catalogues. He was founder of the Bulletin of New Zealand Art History, which he edited from 1972 to 1985. While in Auckland, he began to accumulate essays on Nicolas Poussin’s paintings and on various theoretical issues in the arts. These were based on his teaching in seminars and they have been extensively re-written for this book. Two of these had ephemeral publication through the Dept of Art History as Rebecca at the Well: Questions of Text & Image and A Shadow in Arcadia. He is also active as a poet.