OF the Dutch paintings there is a larger proportion of such as are worthy to be ranked with European Museum pictures. Some of the examples by Frans Hals, Rembrandt, Vermeer van Delft, Albert Cuyp, and Maes are equal to the best work of these artists to be found anywhere.
We are at once impressed with the clear line of demarkation between the Flemish and the Dutch schools. The latter became great through its national feeling asserting itself throughout the 17th century; the school of Flanders, with the exception of Rubens, van Dyck and Teniers, never reached beyond the first glory of the Ten Eycks and a few other Primitives. And if during the 18th century the world-wide reaction also affected Holland, its art reached in the 19th century again a height such as added new lustre to its bright records.
The Museum has been in possession of an exceedingly valuable painting, which was among the first purchase of old pictures made in 1871. Not being recognized it has lain in storage for thirty-five years, not even being mentioned in the catalogue. At last, in 1906, it was duly honoured, and is tableted as a ” Crucifixion ” by Cornelis Engelbrechtsz. (1468-1533), the founder of the Leyden school and the teacher of the more renowned Lukas van Leyden. There are only two triptychs of Engelbrechtsz. preserved in the Lakenhal in Leyden, and a ” Crucifixion,” in the Ryksmuseum at Amsterdam, that bears some resemblance to the one before us. It is a curious early painting with its stiff and angular figures.
Two paintings by his pupil Lukas van Leyden (1494-1533) are of surpassing interest. ” Christ presented to the People ” is the original of the picture that is catalogued in the Belvedere, Vienna, as a copy. The platform, raised in a public square in the city of Jerusalem, carries the Christ in a group of six persons, two of whom draw aside the purple robe and show Him to the people. The foreground is filled with richly dressed persons, commenting on the scene, while the windows of the houses around the square are occupied by spectators. Lukas, who was as famous an engraver as a painter, himself etched a plate after this painting in 1510. The other example is one of a series of tempera paintings on linen, illustrating the history of Joseph, which series was seen in a house at Delft by Karel van Mander, and recorded by him in his ” Het Leven der Schilders.” This picture represents the incident when Joseph’s blood-stained coat is carried to Jacob.
Maarten van Heemskerk (1494-1574) for as such he is known in the history of art, and not as Martin van Veen as the catalogue gives it, this being his father’s surname was the pupil of Jan van Scorel who first introduced portraiture in Holland. The” Portrait of his Father,” by which van Heernskerk is here represented, has already that realistic touch of character painting in which the later men so greatly excelled. Maarten was a most industrious worker, designing stained-glass windows, which art was then in the ascendency, as well as etching, engraving and pendrawing, whereby he amassed a considerable fortune. A peculiar pro-vision in his will may be considered a personal idiosyncrasy not so by those acquainted with the typical Dutch sentiment, still existent among the lower classes, which considers a childless marriage a spiritual visitation, whereas the crown of the married state is found in the blessing of offspring. Van Heemskerk, then, had been twice married, both unions remaining childless; and for that reason, it is said, he left a trust fund from which yearly a sum should be given to two brides, who would consent to have their marriage ceremony take place on his gravestone not an onerous condition, if we remember that, according to the custom of the times, he was buried in the church. This provision was carried out for over two centuries, the last couple being married under these conditions in November, 1789, as the records show.
A “River Scene with Boats,” by Jan Willaerts (1577-1664) the name Adam in the catalogue is erroneous presents this rare painter in a calmer view than his battle scene of Admiral Heemskerk’s victory of 1639, in the Ryksmuseum at Amsterdam, which is the only example of this earliest marine painter in any of the Netherland galleries. Although born in Antwerp he went early to Utrecht where he learned his art, and became a member of the local Guild.
A loaned painting, entitled ” Christ Blessing; surrounded by Donor and his Family,” is given to Antonis Mor (1512-1576), with a query. This is an exceedingly interesting question to solve, and if it should be decided that Mor did paint this triptych, the Museum may boast of showing a work of the utmost rarity. Mor was a portrait painter; one of a Goldsmith in the Mauritshuis, The Hague, from his brush being one of the finest portraits in that museum. He had been formed in his native Utrecht under Jan van Scorel, whereby his early work shows the dry, angular method of his teacher. While in Italy he was much impressed with Titian’s work, and developed an individual style of portraiture which excels in warm colour and roundness of form, more indicated by the management of the colour than by the sharpness of line. In England he painted Mary Tudor’s portrait, and was made Sir Anthony More. In Spain he became King Philip’s court painter as Antonio Moro. Wherever his work is to be seen in Hampton Court, Paris, Vienna, Brussels, St. Petersburg or The Hague, he is signalized as one of the greatest painters who had thus far appeared.
Not until half a century later do we meet with the portrait painters of the Golden Age of Dutch art; the first one being Michiel Jansen Mierevelt (1567-1646). A ” Portrait of a Lady,” of his hand, a half-length, turned slightly to the left, is the only example we have here of the forerunners of Hals and Rembrandt. Mierevelt, Moreelse and Ravesteyn contributed much to the lustre of the 17th century. Mierevelt must be ranked below Ravesteyn, although his portraits excel in simplicity and truthfulness, and are full of character.
The greatest portrait painter of the Dutch school, the one who is placed according to individual preference as the greatest master in portraiture, was Frans Hals, of whom the Museum shows sufficient examples to enable us to determine him a master of masters.
Frans Hals (1584-1666) came from an old burgher family of Haarlem, the archives there mentioning the family name for two centuries before his birth. Through the stress of the times his parents left the city some time after it was taken by the Spaniards, and Frans was. born while they were in exile in Antwerp. It is plausible to assume that his early years were practically wasted, that the unsettled condition of the family as refugees, constantly waiting to return home, had its effect on the young man in preventing him to prepare himself for any life-work, and that then the seed must have been sown for that regretful irregularity of life, of which later we hear so much. That the accounts of this have been greatly overdrawn must, however, be conceded. Although Frans was intemperate and improvident, he was no mere wine-bibbing sot, as he has been called. It is true that he was reprimanded for drunkenness by the magistrates of Haarlem, and for ” mishandling ” his wife. But this early matrimonial venture seems to have been an unfortunate one, and soon after the death of his first wife he married Lysbeth Reyniers. Since they lived together for nearly fifty years we must sup-pose that she made allowances for his habits and tactfully restrained him from too many excesses. The fact that Hals was granted intimate association with the best citizens of his town; that he produced works that show sureness of touch, the illumination of genius, unclouded and unshackled ; that even as an octogenarian he painted two portraits (the authorities of the ” Old Men’s Home,” in Haarlem) that show no feebleness, no diminishing power, no decrepitude in the facile touch, but are painted with an eye, not in the least dimmed to the purity and brilliancy of colour all this proves that this good-natured Bohemian, not burdened with any overweening anxiety to drain his vitality by excessive labour, was still sufficiently endowed with that industry which is the perquisite of genius. His jolly bon-vivant nature may have often led him past his studio-door to the pothouse when he was at his easel he was a man to be respected and honoured for what he did, for few have done more. Nor were his spendthrift habits altogether the cause of his decline to poverty, so that in his last years the city-council provided him with a pension of two hundred Carolus guilders. His art was not quite understood in his time, and it was ill-paid. This lack of appreciation continued for generations. Even to within fifty years ago his paintings could be bought for a song, and as late as 1852 the ” Portrait of Himself and Wife, in the Ryksmu seum, brought at the Six van Hillegom sale only $240. Only then the tide turned and he was ac-corded his true place among the foremost painters of the world.
When we study the work of Hals we note that no man has ever surpassed the Haarlem genius as a technician. His manner was bold, imperial, its power subdued and graded according to the importance of the parts, but above all of an ease and assurance, without correction or emendation, that verges on the miraculous. Here he dashes a full-loaded brush, there he flows his colour in smooth tints along the folds of gown or collaret, but always with a superb freedom and breadth. There was progress even in his magical touch, whereby the sparkling virtuosity of his earlier years developed towards greater refinement, harmony and sobriety in his latest painting, expressing himself ever more concisely, and yet more clearly. The vitality, the frankly human side of his portraits, strike us because the character of his sitters has been apparently recognized without searching, keenly caught on the self-revealing instant, and transmitted to the canvas so that it pulsates with life, life itself. Yet never with any vulgar trickery for illusionary deceit anything but that. His work is frankly painting. His broad dabs and dashes, unlike the mosaic and marquetry effect of his modern imitators, produce the ego of the person, with the laugh or smile that reveals the soul.
His colour is rich, but gradually becomes mellower, and his palette creates a chromatic scale with subtle intensity. How colour can speak he showed in his flat-painting, from which Manet and Whistler drew their inspiration. How colour can model, aye sculpture, he showed in his tones and values. He did not attempt the romanticism of light-effects, of chiaroscuro the only quality in which Rembrandt surpasses him. Only for a few years, between 1635 and 1642, he seems to have experimented with this new idea, but he soon abandoned it, and adhered to his own conception of the light problem, which ignored the possibilities of strong contrasts. His lighting is uniform and evenly distributed, a subdued daylight that did not affect the harmonious assertion of each shade, well-tempered and diffused.
Of his best period are the portraits of Heer and Vrouw Bodolphe, both dated 1643, loaned by Mr. Morgan. They are typical characters of the Dutch bourgeoisie, the man, staid, firm and yet good-natured ; the woman serious, virtuous and self-satisfied. The mastery which Hals had attained is shown in the manner in which he subordinates his richest masses of black with the greatest delicacy to the flesh-tones. The ” Portrait of a Man,” in the Marquand collection, I would place at least ten years earlier. It is painted more ruggedly, but with a vitalizing crispness of touch. ” The Wife of Frans Hals, in the same collection; belongs again to the late forties, and was painted at least fifteen years after the famous group of himself and Lysbeth, in the Ryksmuseum. The ” Hille Hobbe van Haarlem ” is a replica of the one in the Berlin Gallery.
Of his elder brother, Dirk Hals (1580-1656), one of the first to devote himself to genre painting, there is a small panel, ” The Smoker,” in which he, more than was usual with him, tried to imitate his brother’s manner. Hence it used to be ascribed to the younger man ; but it lacks the brio which Frans infused in his work. The colour is not as crisp, nor the drawing as assured. There is some hesitancy, some searching in the handling which is never found with his more brilliant brother.
A few other portrait painters of the early 17th century are shown. Of Daniel Mytens (about 1590-1656) we find a life size portrait of ” Charles I,” in the Hearn collection, one of several which he painted during his sojourn in England, where he imitated van Dyck, assuming also to be his rival in royal favour. Not succeeding in this he speedily returned to The Hague. His work outdid van Dyck’s in its apparent effort to please he certainly bestowed greater care on the accessories of costume and the like.
Cornelis Janssen van Ceulen (1590-1664) also went to England, where he remained for thirty years, painting a large number of portraits in van Dyck’s manner, and acquiring a certain finesse of pose, as may be seen in his half-length ” Portrait of a Lady.” He is weakest in his flesh-tones, which are pallid, the shadows being a lifeless gray. After his return to Holland he improved greatly under Rembrandt’s influence.
Abraham (not Adrian) de Vries (1601-1650) belonged to the Leyden Guild, but later found his domicile in The Hague, where this ” Portrait of a Dutch Gentleman ” was painted.
Rembrandt (1606-1669) is represented by three portraits.
Rembrandt becomes the Supreme Master of the art of painting by the power and excellence of all those qualities that make the great artist. In some of these he was equalled by other men Titian was as great a colourist and designer. Raphael had a more refined colourscheme, it may be claimed but then the question arises whether beauty alone is not inferior to beauty combined with strength. And in this, in vigorous beauty Rembrandt surely surpassed him. Hals, Velasquez and Whistler might be ranked higher as portrait painters yet they never produced anything better than the portraits in the ” Syndics,” than ” The Gilder,” of the Havemeyer collection, ” Jan Sobiesky,” of the Hermitage, or ” Rembrandt’s Mother.” In one respect Rembrandt is the acknowledged peer of all the world. No one, before or after him, ever entered as deeply into the secret of the marvellous effect of light and dark. He was the first to develop to perfection the concentration of light and the diffusion of luminosity from the deepest shades. This juxtaposition of light and shade did not lie, as with Caravaggio, in the brutal opposing of livid whites to opaque blacks, but rather in the blending by imperceptible gradations of the most brilliant light with the deepest shadow, bathed in an ever luminous atmosphere. Thus Rembrandt’s light, at which many imitators and followers have essayed to light their own torches, has become the supreme, unmatched product of his incomparable genius; and he became, and always remained, the foremost to depict ” the poetry of chiaroscuro.”
Note his colour. He did not use the gamut of pigment with more or less harmonious abundance, as the Venetians did. His palette was too reserved and simple. But his masses of hue and tint are kneaded through the figures he paints, so that colour, not line, moulds his solid forms with singular vivacity, and his sparkling brush adds brilliancy that dazzles. It is the paramount order of all his qualities that makes Rembrandt the ” King of Painters.”
Rembrandt taught many pupils. Of the few he taught while still in Leyden, Gerard Dou became the most famous. From 1630, when he removed to Amsterdam, until about 1642 he had a large number in his studio, many of whom shine prominently in the lower constellations of that golden age. Of these we may mention Moeyaert, Koninck, Lievens, Backer, Bol, van der Helast, Flinck, Victors, van den Eeckhout, Fabricius, Maes, Vermeer van Delft, de Hooch and Metsu all men who made a name for themselves. When his financial misfortunes overtook him the Master had not the heart to de-vote himself to his ” painter-boys,” as they were called. Only in his declining years, when quietly settled with Hendrickje Stoffels and his son Titus on the Rozengracht, do we hear of one more, Aert van Gelder, working with Rembrandt. There was no pecuniary benefit attached to having pupils. Most of them paid for their tuition by preparing canvases, cleaning brushes, and grinding and mixing pigments, the last not an inconsiderable task since prepared paints were then unknown. The pupils were further generally provided with their midday meal at the master’s table, some even lodged with him, and the only reward the master received was their assistance in commissions and the altruistic honour of having a large following.
One of the two bust portraits by Rembrandt in the Museum the younger man was painted (1640) in those happy days when Saskia was his help-meet and the Master was in the hey-day of his fame. The other one shows how little his powers were warped by his many cares and troubles for it is dated the year before his death. There is a marvellous simplicity in the manner of painting, while the remarkable vitality of these men have a compelling force. In all the portraits of men which Rembrandt has painted, he stamps upon the features his own never failing dignity of character, imbues them with his own nobility.
” The Adoration of the Shepherds ” is catalogued as of the school of Rembrandt. It is more likely to be a copy of a picture in the National Gallery, in London, made long after Rembrandt’s death, and not by any one of his direct pupils.
A landscape, ” The Mills,” formerly attributed to Rembrandt, is now marked ” School of Rembrandt ? ” The Master added landscape to his subjects after Saskia’s death in 1641. He was as characteristic in these subjects as in all his other work, displaying the same fulness of design and facility of expression as we find in his etched landscapes. The painting before us is an interesting subject.
Since the greatest of the 17th century Dutch painters were contemporary we need not follow the years of birth punctiliously, but the rather group them according to the principal subjects in which they expressed themselves.
From among the portrait and figure painters of this period we find here the work of Bartholomeus van der Helast (1613-1670), a bust ” Portrait of a Dutch Burgomaster,” and a half-length ” Portrait of Jan van Male.” These canvases are typical examples of van der Helast’s portraiture, which was very popular in his time. Although trained by Frans Hals, and later by Rembrandt, he did not possess a moiety of the talents of either. His portraits are faithful transcripts of nature, but they lack what the French call enveloppe. His strength lies in robust simplicity of conception, vigorous solidity of method, and unfailing carefulness yet leaves us cold withal. Even his group pictures and who has not heard of his world-renowned
Peace Banquet,” in the Ryksmuseum? are only aggregrates of individual portraits, without cohesion; with an attractive colour scheme, and patient and persevering precision as to details, but only breathing accomplished mediocrity.
We will leave Sir Peter Lely,, and Sir Godfrey Kneller, although catalogued under the Dutch school because born in Holland, to be considered with the English portrait painters, with whom they rightly belong.
The young Gerbrandt van den Eeckhout (1621-1674) became Rembrandt’s closest imitator, especially in. the colour and chiaroscuro of his small biblical subjects, so that many of his works have been carelessly ascribed to the Master. Generally he missed, however, the profound depth of feeling and the poetical imagination which vivifies Rembrandt’s work. A ” Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah ” is from Gerbrandt’s brush.
Samuel van Hoogstraten (1626-1678), best known for his ” Inleiding tot de Hooge School der Schilderkunst ” (Introduction to the University of the Art of Painting), an instructive and entertaining volume, formed himself at first entirely by Rembrandt’s example, but a trip to Italy modified his style, making it more pleasing to the crowd, and more productive to himself, but destructive of his permanent fame. The ” Portrait of a Gentleman and Lady ” is a fair example of this so-called ” pot-boiling ” style.
Of greater renown was Nicolaas Mats, who had a distinct transition from a genuine and serious manner, assimilated in his master’s studio, to a gradual succumbing to Frenchified taste, sapping his Dutch characteristics. The ” Portrait of the Duchesse de Mazarin ” is of his latest period, while his ” Portrait of a Woman” is of some years earlier. Neither one does justice to the serious painter of old women, such as may be seen in the Ryksmuseum. In these nothing appears trivial ; subtlety of chiaroscuro is united to vigorous colour, in which harmonies of red and black sometimes pervade the picture in subdued tones; the figures are finely drawn, and their action is perfect. All this was at last diluted by a desire to please, although even at the end he produced some portraits worthy of his early training.
A ” Portrait of a Dutch Admiral,” by Aert van Gelder (1645-1727), Rembrandt’s last pupil, is an early work that does not bear many signs of the artist’s later eccentricities. While he possessed a fascinating charm of colour, admirable conduct of light and shade, and a rich and spirited brush, he had a tendency to slovenly drawing, resulting in uncouth forms. He also amused himself by applying his pigment with thumb and fingers and the handle of his brush, which, as Hoogstraten put it, ” had not an unpleasant effect, if you stood far enough away.”
The last one of the 17th century Dutch portrait painters shown here is Karel de Moor (1656-1738), a pupil of Gerard Dou, whom he followed in the high finish of his pictures. In his portrait of ” A Burgomaster of Leyden and his Wife ” he acquitted himself well according to the demand of his time, when the painting of trifling externalities was demanded as well as the likeness to be taken. He was more original in his large historical and biblical subjects, which are cleverly composed, the figures correctly drawn, the colour clear and transparent.
While ” genre painting ” had been introduced by the Venetian Bassani and Carpaccio, the Dutch readily adopted this kind of art expression and gave it definite rank and importance. It was the story-telling picture, dignified and ennobled by the manner of its execution ; and the Dutch ” Little Masters ” so-called because the size of their masterpieces was usually small gave especial distinction to their home-life.
One of the first of these genre painters was Adriaen van Ostade (1610-1685), of whom we have a familiar ” Old Fiddler,” a subject which the artist treated many times. The strolling musician is performing before the door. of a farmer’s cottage to the delight of the group of children around him, although the three dice-throwers pay little attention to his screechy notes. As usual there is an excellent arrangement of the figures, the painting is done with great spirit and fine finish, but the best point is the fresh, sparkling manner in which sun-light plays with the shadows. His humorous miseen-scene is a natural, artless portrayal of the life of the common people. A small panel, ” The Smokers,” is one of those apparently trivial glimpses into the interior of a pot-house, which may often be confused with those of his fellow-pupil in Hals’ studio , the Flemish Adriaan Brouwer. Ostade’s treatment of these topics is, however, less boisterous, more good-natured, and with all its burlesque less gross, and distinctly amusing. His pictures have technical freshness, melting colours, and deft application of light effects. The absence of these more refined traits in a little panel, called ” A Smoker,” also ascribed to him, leads one to suggest Brouwer as its author.
The greatest of Frans Hals’ pupils is least like him. Yet Gerard Terborch (1617-1681), in his original and individual manner, is among the peers of the masters of the 17th century. He was the aristocrat in the St. Lukas Guild, and he has given us an intimate acquaintance with the private life of the patrician class of the Holland of his time, the family-life of the Dutch merchant-princes. The ” Portrait of a Gentleman,” in the Museum, is hardly sufficient to illustrate the wonderful talent of Terborch, although it gives some idea of his excellent drawing, his velvety colour, correct modelling, and the elegance of the well-bred beau-monde. A recently acquired ” The Courtyard of a Blacksmith Shop ” is ascribed to him, but one is not prepared to agree with this.
Of Terborch’s only pupil of whom there is record, Caspard Netscher (1639-1684), we have two small canvases, a ” Portrait of a Dutch Lady and ” The Card-Party.” However talented, Netscher never rose to the highest rank in art. He was very popular in his time among the upper classes, whose indoor-life he painted; his strongest claim to distinction being his mastery of texture painting, notably of silks and satins.
As far apart as the poles in subject matter was the work of Terborch and Jan Steen (1626-1679), although in one respect they had the same characteristic a certain naivete to depict character, an unconscious spying upon the salient traits of their subjects; Steen choosing these among the low and gross, as Terborch did among those who occupied the seats of the mighty. A ” Dutch Kermesse ” gives a typical scene of the hilarious crowd Steen loved to paint. The jolly gathering before the inn, revelling to their heart’s content, were his own boon companions, and if we look sharp we will recognize very likely in some bearded fellow or other Steen’s own genial features.
Such were his favorite subjects. Indoors or outdoors he paints them with waggish, droll satire, and whimsical good-humour. There is never a malicious sneer upon his lips ; and even in the picturing of his wildest orgies, as well as in his somewhat coarse and vulgar chronicles of guilty folly, he always points a moral. It is not at all beyond the bounds of possibility that Jan Steen, despite the scenes of wassail in which he so often portrays himself as taking part, was himself abstemious. How else would it be possible for a man to paint in a comparatively brief career almost five hundred pictures, the last better than the first, and surely not any bearing evidence of the trembling hand of the confirmed drunkard? If we look for a mind back of the product, we must accord to Jan Steen, after viewing the large array of his compositions, a superior mentality, sympathetic, philosophic and beneficent-satirical. Add to this almost faultless execution, in which wilful exaggeration is still kept under perfect control; a deep, strong, juicy colouring, and a treatment of light and shade that makes him a true member of the great school to which he belonged and many will agree with me that Jan Steen is one of the trio, with Hals and Ruisdael, who stand nearest to Rembrandt.
A picture called ” The old Rat comes to the Trap at last “ a rather coarse portrayal of the manner in which an old libertine is caught at his tricks which was bought in 1871, has always been ascribed to Jan Steen. Recently the tablet has been changed to ” Esaias Boursse, figures by Jan Steen,” the reasons for which are not apparent. The canvas is a remarkably good copy of a genuine Jan Steen, which I have seen in a collection in Holland. In fact the dull reds and greens colours which were typical of Steen’s palette and the general excellence of the work make one almost think that Steen himself painted this as a replica. It is thoroughly in the Rabelaisian spirit of our roguish philosopher.
A ” Kitchen Interior,” bought only a few years ago as a ” Jan Steen,” was soon discovered to be void of all traces of the masterhand. The colour is raw and crude, and the drawing lacks the smooth roundness of the Leyden master. In some ways it bears resemblance to the work of Nicolaes Moeyaert, yet is scarcely good enough to be saddled on him. The new attribution, giving it to Adriaen van Nieuwland (1587-1658), a little-known and unimportant painter of Amsterdam, hardly solves the problem.
Pieter de Hooch (1630-1677) must be ranked very high among his brethren, because of his successful solution of a problem of his own creation, which no one else has ever solved in such masterful fashion. He aimed to introduce different light-effects through open doors and windows, often opposing outdoor and interior light in the same composition. One of the most valuable of the many paintings which Mr. George A. Hearn has given to the Museum, is an ” Interior,” by de Hooch. The lines of the composition, and the dexterous management of the light through the front door, side-window, and the door leading to the next room, are identical with his ” Messenger,” in the Ryksmuseum of Amsterdam. The difference lies only in the class of dwelling the artist portrays. In the Amsterdam painting we see the front hall of a patrician mansion, a young lady seated at the casement window, and a child entering the front door, which gives view of the stately houses across the city canal. In our picture the front hall is of a burgher home in a provincial town. The housewife is seated at the window, and a little girl enters carrying a milk jug. Through the door we view some of the gabled houses across the street. In both pictures a large tree in front of the door throws leafy shadows to add to the play of light, which brilliantly illuminates the houses in the perspective. There is a vibrant harmony in the subdued colouring of our fine panel, an unobtrusive placing of figures, so that the scene breathes a sentiment of peace, tranquillity and domesticity. Still we will always hark back to his unparalleled pictorial expression of the subtleties of sunshine.
Another gem owned by the Museum is the ” Young Woman Opening a Casement,” by Jan Vermeer van Delft (1632-1675), in the Marquand collection ; while a picture of equal value by Vermeer has recently been loaned by Mr. Morgan, entitled “Young Woman Writing a Letter.” While de Hooch favoured the golden sunlight in graded planes, Vermeer bathes his interiors in a different, silvery light. He places his single figure most frequently in the foreground in the shade, while he admits .the light through a window in the middle distance or in the background. Then he finds full play in letting this light fill the room in just proportion along a bright wall to the shadowed corner of the canvas. And by this peculiarity he has become the greatest painter of values ever known, that is, the value of the same colour, under varying intensity of light. He loves to introduce young women in some trivial occupation, and then his readily flowing brush caresses and moulds before us a figure with all the subdued intensity of vitality. A favourite colour of his is a ” moonlight blue,” which occurs in well-nigh every picture he painted. It intensifies his height of light and makes it transparent, vibrant, scintillating. He combines therewith certain shades of yellow that gleam and sparkle in his illuminated surfaces and in his tender flesh-tones.
All we know of Gabriel Metsu (1630-1667) is that he was admitted to the Guild of his native Leyden when eighteen years old, and that he moved to Amsterdam two years later, where he entered Rembrandt’s studio. His was an impressionable character. The influence of one or the other of his contemporaries is generally to be recognized in his scenes of peasant life and in his little pictures of life in the parlours or boudoirs of the wealthy class of society. These are all reminiscent of like compositions by van Ostade, Terborch, Steen and others for Metsu lacked the power of individual observation. Notwithstanding this, possibly unconscious, imitation, his work possesses masterful characteristics. Especially as a draughtsman he is the most accomplished of the Dutch genre painters, while his technic, light and free, may be called ” the, grand style ” on a small scale. His ” Music Lesson,” in the Museum, gives us one of his intimate peeps into the world of leisure of the patrician class. The stately apartment, the elegant costumes, are well rendered in a careful and yet broad handling, with a decisive touch.
Although Pieter van Slingeland (1640-1691) is best known as a genre painter, he is represented here by a small full-length ” Portrait of a Dutch Burgomaster.” A sufficient resume of his pains-taking style is contained in the report current at his time that he spent four years to paint a lace jabot.
The last one of the genre painters here is Cornelis Dusart (1660-1704), whose little panel, “Under the Trellis,” although less fine or forceful than the work of van Ostade, still points to this Haarlem painter’s instruction.
Some of the landscape painters of the 17th century Dutch are represented, but not by any extraordinary examples.
Cornelis van Poelenburg (1586-1667) remained faithful to the end to the Italian method of his master Adam Elsheimer. Of graceful style, his attractive little cabinet-pieces fell greatly to the taste of his public. They generally represent little figures bathing, dainty, beautiful in line, clear and tender in light effects, but giving more or less the impression of effeminacy. A typical example is in the Museum.
Jan van Goyen (1596-1656) was the first to choose landscape art for itself alone. He chose, more than Cuyp or van de Velde, to portray with truthful fidelity the picturesque scenery of land and stream, and trees and cabins. While at first he painted in the finicky manner of his master Esaias van de Velde, he gradually became broader and freer in his treatment. This evolution was accompanied by a new manner thoroughly his own, in which he subordinated colour to tone. He kept himself to a brown or gray key, with tones between sometimes leaning towards a reddish warm-yellow, then again towards a bleached-yellow, gray-green, or bluish-gray. Although this peculiar, individual refinement lays him open to the charge of mannerism, it invests his work with a special charm. He became one of the very great painters of air and space, with a wonderful reflection of sky in his quiet water reaches. His picture ” The Moerdyk,” as well as his ” Panoramic View of the Environs of Haarlem ” the latter dated 1646, and out of his best period are worthy examples. A recently acquired landscape, ” View of Rhenen,” is not as characteristic in colour nor composition. The full signature ” V. Goyen ” militates somewhat against its authenticity, since the artist when he did sign his pictures, generally was satisfied with ” VG with or without the date.
Pieter Molyn (1600-1661), London-born, but a member of the Guild of Haarlem when only six-teen, painted in van Goyen’s manner with a some-what finer touch and more suppleness of handling. His Landscape with Cottage ” is a characteristic Dutch scene; for he eschewed any foreign miseen-scene.
As important as these two was Aert van der Neer (1603-1677), who painted waterscapes, by preference reflecting silvery moonlight, or the fiery glow of a conflagration, and also winter scenes with figures on the ice. The ” Sunset,” by this artist, in the Museum, is an unusual subject, and the more interesting. A lake, surrounded by long reaches of meadow grass and clumps of trees reflects the tender, luminous light of the low-setting sun. Two hunters have come to bag some of the ducks that dot the water. A picture, ” The Farrier,” bought in 1871, has only recently been catalogued under his name one might say with but slight credibility.
Salomon van Ruysdael (1600-1670) came from Naarden, where he was born, to Haarlem and entered the Guild there. His younger brother Izaac had preceded him thither to deal in art. His artistry justifies the assumption that, like van Goyen, he emanated from the studio of Esaias van de Velde. At first their art ran on parallel lines, Salomon’s being somewhat cooler in colour. About middle-age he widened his horizon, became firmer of hand and stronger in colour. Still later we find him endeavouring to emulate his nephew, Izaac’s son, the renowned Jacob, but with little success. His two examples in the Museum, a Dutch Kermesse ” and a ” Marine ” are of his middle period.
Jan Both (1610-1652), with his brother Andries, followed Poelenburg to Italy, and strongly imbibed there those influences which later were to bring ruin to the Dutch school by eliminating its national characteristics. An ” Italian Landscape ” shows the distinction between the two tendencies that were to develop. A strong leaning towards Claude Lorrain is also discernible in this canvas.
With Philip Wouwerman (1619-1668) the landscape painting forms no mean part in the composition. He had learned from Jan Wynants, doing his master full credit. Especially is his foliage verdant and clear, and his light-effect is peculiarly charming. He devoted himself, however, greatly to the study of the horse, which he pictured as the farm animal or the battle charger, a white horse generally serving as his principal mass of light. He was master of the form and action of these animals, and became so facile that he could dispense with the use of models. ” The Halt ” is a typical panel from his prolific brush.
Nicholas Berchem (1620-1683) was Haarlem-born, and a pupil of van Goyen. After his journey to Italy, the influence of which is visible in all his landscape settings, he settled in Amsterdam, where his improvident habits caused his wife to take charge of the exchequer, allowing him a few florins at a time for pocket-money. He adopted his surname from the nickname he received on account of the mountains (Dutch : bergen). which always appear in his pictures. These pictures are remarkable for their tasteful composition, enriched with architectural ruins, and enlivened with charming groups of figures and cattle. They are care-fully finished and at the same time free in hand-ling, with a warm colour scheme and brilliant lighting as may be seen in the little canvas before us, ” Rest.”
The first of the really great landscape painters of the school was Aelbert Cuyp (1620-1691), and the Museum is fortunate in possessing a large ” Landscape with Cattle ” in his best manner. The epithet ” the sunny-hearted ” is understood when we regard this glowing, luminous canvas. The golden mantle of eventime has fallen on the country side, and the night-milking is in progress. We have an opportunity to note that Cuyp has rightly been placed among the foremost of cattle painters. Still he excelled in landscape, and where the great Ruisdael with his gigantic strength often produces a sense of gloom and solitude, Cuyp with his poetic spirit gives such happy, unstudied combinations of arrangement that his works become pastoral poems. Another ” Landscape with Cattle,” somewhat smaller, is of the same period. It presents more figures, and in the vapoury distance a view of his beloved Dordrecht is shown. It would, however, need several more canvases to appreciate the many-sidedness of this great master’s talents. In his earlier years he painted still-life, game, fruit and fish, with a skill, a refinement, a feeling for texture and colour, which places him above any of the artists who devoted themselves exclusively to such themes. Later he painted also genre subjects with equal facility and strength.
Izaac van Ostade (1621-1649) soon left the interiors which he had learned to paint in his brother’s studio, for out of doors inspiration. The animated scene ” Winter Holland” was painted after he had come fully to his own, but it has the peculiar brownish tint caused by discoloration of the inferior pigment he used. His brushing is free and broad. In this winter scene we have a veracious view of the life and enjoyment to which the frozen rivers and canals of Holland give play.
The work of Emanuel Murant (1622-1700) is extremely rare, only one example being in the Dutch public galleries, in the Boymans Museum of Rotterdam. The landscape before us, called “The Farm ” (more likely a country-inn) shows the careful minuteness of his work, the skilful and life-like manner of arranging the figures in the composition, and his warm colouring. He was a pupil of Wouwerman.
Johannes Lingelbach (1623-1674) has a peculiar mixture of Dutch and Italian manner, his best part being clever draughtsmanship ; wherefore he furnished frequently the small figures in the paintings of his brother-artists. His ” Battle-scene represents his latest work. Another Italianized Dutch-man, Willem Romeyn (1624-1693), was a minor artist, whose ” Cattle in Repose” is in the Museum.
The greatest of the Dutch landscapists was Jacob van Ruisdael (1628-1682). He was the son of Izaac, the framemaker of Haarlem, and he entered his uncle’s studio, whose son, also called Jacob, was but an indifferent fellow-pupil. To distinguish his work from that of his cousin and of his uncle, our Jacob adopted the spelling of his name by changing the double i, or y, into a single i, to van Ruisdael. An early journey to the northern forests of Germany gave him the material for those paintings which he thought might strike the popular fancy, since such scenes had been done by van Everdingen with great success. But neither these wild scenes of mountain torrents dashing over rocks, nor the marvellous views which he gave of his own country, were appreciated, and despite his productiveness for over 450 of his works are catalogued he came to want. The members of the Mennonite community of Amsterdam, of which sect he was a` member, secured admission for him in the almshouse of Haarlem in 1681, where he died the following year.
Ruisdael’s paintings surpass anything that has ever been produced in landscape art, because they are the work of a man who expresses some lofty and sustained thought in the most forceful language. They are the work of a man of mighty mind, who thinks, and is unique in his expression. They are simple, serious, strong and with sustained force. They are deeply subjective. We discover in all of Ruisdael’s work, whether in his mountain-torrents, dune-stretches or seapieces the reflection, the domination of his own personality not by limitation of power, but by inolination of choice. His own melancholy character found response in the broken, subdued and diffused light of nature; he was more moved by the sight of a stormy sky and the shudder of great trees tortured by the gale — just as Corot loved the pale light and silver-gray of the dawn, and the song of the lark. It was not a limitation of vision, but a choice of sentiment. His ” Landscape,” in the Museum, does not represent him in the fulness of his power even so it indicates the profound, grave mind that made landscape richer in character, deeper in feeling, more tense in expression than the work of any other landscape painter.
Abraham Storck (1630-1710) pictured, besides turbulent or quiet waters also city views, with some talent. A ” Seaport,” here, is representative of his work. Of Johan van Huchtenburgh (1646-1733) there are two canvases, Repose after the Hunt ” and ” A Siege,” whereof the latter is the most characteristic, as it also shows plainest that the artist built his style chiefly on Wouwerman.
Only one example of the 17th century Dutch marine painters is found here. It is a recently acquired ” Calm Sea,” by Simon de Vlieger (1612-1663), who carried on the advance of marine painting, until it was soon to find its fullest expression in Willem van de Velde, the younger, to whom belongs the palm for sea-pieces.
Several of the famous still-life painters are represented. They brought the painting of nature morte up to a high pitch of perfection, especially in getting the effect of light upon these objects, pots, pans, china, stuffs, fruit, flowers, dead game. Jan Davidsz. de Heem (1600-1683) shows in his ” Still-Life ” tasteful arrangement of the oysters, lemons, grapes and wineglass on the green-covered table, all given with depth and truth of colour. Fish was the specialty of Abraham van Beyeren (1620-1674). Jan Baptist Weenix (1621-1660) was the most gifted in this branch of art, though his versa-tile powers led him to produce creditable portraits, and, while sojourning in Italy, pictures of seaports, one of the latter being in the Museum. Nor is Willem Kalif (1621-1693) represented by this work in which he excelled, but by a cottage interior. Rachel Ruysch (1664-1750) displayed admirable taste and judgment in the grouping of flowers, which she depicted with accuracy and harmonious colouring. A small panel here bears witness to her proficiency.
The 18th century was barren of art in Holland, only a few practitioners, following foreign tendencies, remained. But with the beginning of the 19th century art revived.
At first it revealed the same academic traits as in France and Flanders. B. C. Koekkoek (1803-1862) adhered to this style to the end. Despite the example set to him by his younger brethren, he continued to the last to paint his photographic landscapes, so strongly reminding of the old Munich and Düsseldorf schools. The three examples of his brush, ” Winter Landscape; Holland,” ” Sun-set on the Rhine,” and ” Winter Scene in Holland,” are thoroughly characteristic. The same tendency may be seen in the landscape setting which Wouter Verschuur (1812-1874) gave to his pictures, which is tight and of little interest. He excelled, however, in the painting of horses, in which he displayed all the knowledge Wouwerman possessed. His ” Horses in a Stable ” demonstrates him to have been a first class animal painter.
J. B. Jongkind (1819-1891) was among the first to take part in the modern Renaissance. He had studied with the academic Schelfhout, but when in Paris he learned from Isabey the secret of romantic colour. Soon he developed a manner all his own. While retaining his residence in France, he spent his sketching summers along his native coasts and infiltrated his work with the Dutch spirit. His ” Sunset on the Scheldt ” has a subdued though brilliant colour expression.
A. H. Bakker-Korff (1824-1882) followed more the minute style of the early Mieris. He is famous for his delicately brushed interiors, in which he displays elderly ladies gossiping around the tea-table. In the Museum example, ” Bric-a-brac,” one of these cronies, with a white cap on her head, is seated among a confusion of artistic objects.
Christoffel Bisschop (1828-1904) was born in Friesland at a time when the Frieslanders could scarcely distinguish between an artist and an acrobat. When he covered his school books with drawings it provoked the horror of his parent. But after his father’s death, his gentle mother allowed him his bent, and we have now the records of that picturesque northern province that shine and sparkle with gem-like gleam in their rich, strong colours. ” The Sunbeam gives a view in watercolour of one of these beautiful Frisian interiors with its antique furniture.
The Nestor of modern Dutch art is Joseph Israels (born 1824), one of the greatest masters of this, age, and in Holland the worthy successor of Rembrandt. At first he sought, without great success, to find recognition with historical compositions; but when illness drove him to seclusion in a little dune village near Haarlem the turning-point came. His mind was inflamed with the poetic beauty of simple humanity, by the picturesque cottage interiors and types; by the beautiful marine views and the rolling background of the golden dunes. While these early presentations of his favourite subjects show yet some tightness of handling, they are already bathed with a new and poetic light in which he places his outdoor figures. It is the real light of the long evening, when a bluish haze descends over nature with the evening dew. We see this light in the beautiful example ” The Bashful Suitor,” painted after he had also attained more freedom and suggestiveness in his drawing. In his interiors he began to denote the chiaroscuro which was revealed to him in his early years by Rembrandt. His colour became also richer and deeper, and with advancing years he became broader and broader in his brushwork, and gained more atmosphere, and ever nobler style. His ” Expectation,” a young peasant woman preparing baby’s outfit to fill the wicker-basket at her side, is rich and juicy of palette ; while the ” Frugal Meal,” in the Vanderbilt collection, is one of his typical interiors, which so many others have followed in portraying.
Not until the fifties do we see both Johannes Bosboom of whom the Museum strangely does not possess a single example and Israels dethroning entirely the historical and romantic views which had so long trammelled the school of their country, and bringing forth an art, truly racy of the soil. With them came Anton Mauve and Jacob Maris.
Anton Mauve (1838-1888) had also to move away from academic training before the example of the broader treatment of Joseph Israels, and the reality of nature’s lights as depicted by the Maris brothers, enabled him to infuse his own gentle, sympathetic, kindly character into his landscapes. Note his ” Spring ” and his ” Autumn ” rarely have such transcriptions of nature been given, breathing such tender feeling, peace and quietude, a revelation of the serene, happy pastoral life of the Dutch peasant.
The art of Jacob Maris (1837-1899) may be less sympathetic, it is more robust, with more grandeur of expression, but not more technical skill. Only a small watercolour, ” Canal in Holland,” is in the Museum, which hardly gives the right impression of his genius. Jacob Maris may lack the poetry of Mauve, the deep spiritual feeling of Israels on the other hand he is the richer colourist, and above all the greatest sky-painter Holland has produced in the 19th century. He is remarkably broad in his handling, and with daring freedom he generalizes details to bring forth the due proportions of beauty in colour, merged into atmosphere. Thereby he reveals the marvellous splendour of the fleeting spirit of landscape, that appeals to us, and grips us with overwhelming force.
His elder brother, Thys (born 1839), as he calls himself to boast of his Dutch allegiance though resident in London, is the most original of Dutch painters. His earlier work shows pictorial features with fine colour, perfect tone and poetic realism. Of such is his ” Reverie,” in the Museum, where a young girl in a low-toned, olive-coloured dress is seated with a distaff in her lap. After 1880 he drew away from any school expression, and took a unique stand in mysterious aloofness. We find him revelling in dreamland, and his fairy-like pictures assume a weird, fantastic expression, elusive, vague, strangely suggestive, even haunting. They are the visionary fantasies of a poet’s brain.
A watercolour by Albert Neuhuys, a characteristic Dutch interior, closes our review of the Dutch paintings.