Nicolas Poussin, Burial of Phocion, ca. 1648-49

Nicolas Poussin (attributed to)
Burial of Phocion, ca. 1648-49
Oil on canvas, backed with panel
H 47-3/4” x W 59-3/4”
Overall height with stand, 76”

Nicolas Poussin defined French Baroque classicism in painting. With the exception of two years serving as court painter to Louis XIII, Poussin spent his entire career in Rome, where he specialized in history paintings – scenes from ancient history, mythology, and the Bible – notable for their dramatic clarity and nobility of purpose. Burial of Phocion depicts the funeral of an Athenian general put to death because he refused to conceal the truth. The idealized landscape, with its almost mathematically precise spaces, is a memorial to Stoic virtue.

A permanent fixture of the Glass House’s main pavilion since its construction i 1949, the painting remains one of only two artworks on view in the Glass House (the other being an sculpture by Elie Nadelman). The installation of Burial of Phocion in the Glass House, although suggested by Aldred H. Barr, Jr., the founding Director of the Museum of Modern Art, is revealing of Johnson’s conception of landscape. His childhood on an Ohio farm, with its spatial stability and rational order, is manifested in the Connecticut property in the studied placement of pavilions and buildings and the selective removal of trees. The Poussin serves as a mediator between the interior geometry of the Glass House and the tamed exterior landscape seen through its transparent walls.

• Acquired in 1945 from Julius H. Weitzner Gallery
• Previously conserved by Margaret Watherston, 1957 and 1961; Helen B. Mannoni, 1968-69; and Rustin Levenson, 1981
• Conserved by Luca Bonetti, 2007-08

Related Content

  • Brick House Restoration

  • Bloomberg Connects

  • Breath of Life:
    The Art of Charles Ethan Porter

  • Philip Johnson Biography