Arcadia stands for a mythical golden age of humanity, a paradise in which nature was so abundant and life so simple that there was no need for intelligence or foresight. The Arcadians thus lived in a state of childlike innocence; a perpetual present, without fear, unaware even of their own mortality. In Poussin's painting some Arcadians have come across a tomb and, deciphering it's motto, for the first time comprehend their fate.
might argue that, in terms of affluence and life-expectancy, humans
have never had it so good: if any time can be called a Golden Age surely
it is ours. But our affluence has also bred a childlike optimism, a
disconnection from the harsher facts of life and the harder lessons
of history. Ignoring these, we sow the seeds of our own destruction.
Project figures for CO2 emmissions, natural resource consumption, habitat
loss and extinction of species into the future, the numbers seem to
anticipate a vast tragedy: "I too am in these numbers"
in Arcadia Nos' is a sort of family memorial, anticipating our deaths,
perhaps even our extinction as a species. It presents an image of a
more harmonious relationship with Nature, but it's not intended to be
a very realistic one. It's more like a repository of transient pleasures
and loves; of unfulfilled hopes and dreams. It shows how we would have
liked to have lived, but failed. Somehow the nostalgic, regretful, elegiac
sensibilty that goes with this type of painting seems entirely appropriate.