The Camden Town Group in Context

ISBN 978-1-84976-385-1

Charles Ginner, ‘Letters to the Editor. Mr. Sickert and Mr. Poussin’

The New Age, 7 May 1914, p.23.

Sir, – Mr. Sickert in his article, “Mr. Ginner’s Preface,” published in your last issue, has raised certain objections to statements I have made in my manifesto on Neo-Realism. The most important deals with my inclusion of Poussin “in the list of merely derivative painters.” Mr. Sickert, who has written a most kind and flattering article, is quite vehement about this, and I have evidently, according to him, in this case, been guilty of a capital sin.
I therefore feel I must state my case. In my essay I had in mind to arrive at my conclusions by comparisons. When my mind was fixed on the seventeenth century, it embraced les frères Le Nain on the one side and Poussin on the other. Mr. Sickert told me to go back “for God’s sake” to the Louvre. Will Mr. Sickert, in his turn, allow me to send him back to that museum and look at the “Repos de Paysons” or “Le Retour de la Fenaison” of Le Nain and compare them with any of the Poussins there? The one is founded on the solid rock of the French Primitives (i.e., the study of nature) and the other on the very unsolid sand of Annibale Carracci, one of the late Italians, i.e., one of the “dregs of the Renaissance,” which is nothing less than “art that is based on other art.”
If one will compare Poussin and Annibale Carracci, one will find such an extraordinary resemblance that I feel I can safely say that Poussin not only did not come out direct from Titian (whose greatness must be acknowledged, but the spirit of whose work, i.e., the spirit of the Renaissance – Formula – could only be disastrous to followers), but derived from the decadent Carracci.
The spirit of Poussin is the spirit of the late Italians, i.e., those who are universally recognised as the decadents of the Renaissance. No doubt, some good passages can be found in Poussin if one searches long enough, but even these passages are parts that have escaped Carracci and are copied direct from Titian.
In Poussin I can see nothing original, either in spirit, observation, or even technique.
In the short space of a letter I cannot develop to its full length my argument. I can only ask Mr. Sickert to go down once more to the National Gallery (we can’t be
always going to Paris) and look at Titian, Carracci, and Poussin, and he will then, I think, have to admit that my assumption that Poussin is “merely derivative” is
I will end by again quoting Mr. Sickert himself, who seems to agree that “art that is based on other art tends to become atrophied.” I should say that by the time we had arrived at Poussin from Titian through Carracci our art had become very “atrophied” indeed.
To answer Mr. Sickert’s “third quarrel” with me: by the word “academic” I mean “art that is based on other art” and receiving no contact from nature. Example: Monsieur Nicolas Poussin.
Charles Ginner.

How to cite

Charles Ginner, ‘Letters to the Editor. Mr. Sickert and Mr. Poussin’, in The New Age, 7 May 1914, p.23, in Helena Bonett, Ysanne Holt, Jennifer Mundy (eds.), The Camden Town Group in Context, Tate Research Publication, May 2012,, accessed 20 April 2024.