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Nicolas Poussin, Landscape with a Man scooping Water from a Stream

Key facts
Full title Landscape with a Man scooping Water from a Stream
Artist Nicolas Poussin
Artist dates 1594 - 1665
Date made about 1637
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 63 × 77.7 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1970
Inventory number NG6390
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Landscape with a Man scooping Water from a Stream
Nicolas Poussin

A sandy path meanders through a landscape of dunes towards distant hills and mountains. An old man in blue with his back towards us occupies the foreground, a sack and water bottle lying beside him on the ground. He seems to be watching a younger man who bends to scoop water from a pool with a pottery shard.

Trees frame the path which draws us into the scene and leads our eyes towards the distance. The small town and people in the background, and the dappled areas of light and shade, evoke the Roman Campagna, in which Poussin often travelled to make studies.

This painting has no known literary source, although it echoes a story from the life of the Greek Cynic philosopher Diogenes. On seeing a young boy use his hands to drink water, Diogenes threw away his cup. He advocated a life without possessions and luxury.

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