MR. HENRY HAVARD has made what at first sounds like an extreme statement regarding Dutch art. He says that there is no such thing as a Dutch school. As he points out, Dutch painting exists, and exists in great profusion, but as for a school of art, handed down from master to pupil, this really has been denied to the Dutchmen. As the term is very generally accepted, how-ever, we will understand by the Dutch school that group of nearly contemporaneous men who all painted in the. seventeenth century, and who had much in common with one another.
When Catholicism died in the Netherlands, the need for religious pictures ceased. At the same time, the form of government became republican, so that the daily life of the people was of more consequence to Holland than the pageantry of court life. These two conditions created the Dutch school. Classic subjects, as well as religious pictures, were ruled out by the sterner Puritanism; therefore genre, the daily doings with which the people were familiar, and landscape and pastoral scenes, occupied the thought of the artists. Only for about a century did this brilliant set of painters exist; in the eighteenth century there was hardly any art in the Netherlands, and before that time religious subjects had been chosen by the Flemish-and the Germans, as we have already seen. The Dutchmen rose superior to the consideration of subject. They gave themselves no concern as to what they should paint, but how they should paint it. They saw and reproduced the obvious, exterior effects, delighting in detail and curious freaks of light. Of deep introspection or philosophy we find little, except of the most primitive sort. While the Dutch were figure-painters, these figures were never the sole aim of their compositions. As the Italians may be said to have painted figures with back-ground, so the Dutch may be observed to have painted backgrounds with figures.
Preeminent in Dutch art, although far exceeding its limits, stands Rembrandt. As Charles Blanc has said, he is ” an exception in the Dutch school,” because of the unlimited resources of his genius. His own portrait, painted by Rembrandt in 1640, is the best picture with which to begin our examination of his works. No. 672 shows the artist in a fur-trimmed coat and velvet hat, and in the prime of life, or, rather, the fulfilment of youth, at the age of thirty-two. Rembrandt was not a strictly handsome man, but he has frequently painted his own portrait. This is one of the most familiar of these.
It has been said of Rembrandt by his biographer, M. Eugène Fromentin,. that he was of a dual nature : one, an adept, facile workman, a Dutch realist ; the other, an idealist, a romancer, a seer of visions, whose principle and whose ideal was light. Added to this ideal was the wonderful faculty of technique, which made it possible for this master to employ the light so that he is the most wonderful interpreter of the luminous who has ever existed. Even in his portraits, which are in-tensely practical and realistic, this marvellous ideal quality is the dominating feature. It i§ the light on the side of the face which is the distinguishing characteristic of his powerful Jewish Rabbi, No. 190, the calm, hazy Capuchin Friar, No. 166, and the cheerful portrait of a middle-aged man, No. 243. Look into these shadows and lights, and you will see almost a mosaic of closely set crisp touches of many varying colours. The painter was self-taught, building up his own method of expression. If it is true that this was a man with a dual nature, it is probable that the natural Rembrandt, if untrained and uncontrolled, would have been a dreamer, and quite visionary; but his acquired personality, the result of his own effort to regulate his nature, was systematic and practical. The union of the two would supply many a flighty genius with staying-power, and many a clever, alert inventor with the necessary ideality. But it is seldom that one sees the balance so evenly sustained. Rembrandt’s principle in portrait-painting was to make the face the centre of interest, realizing how grotesque a study of clothes becomes after the fashions have changed. In all his portraits in the National Gallery this will be noticed. He subordinates the surroundings into shadow and suggestion, leading the interest of the spectator to the soul of the subject as depicted on his face.
How the shrewdness and alertness of the Jewish Merchant, No. 51, is expressed in every part of the composition ! Not the popularly accepted cringing and sharpness, but the real insight and activity which characterize the best people in this nation of genuine aristocrats, with their uninterrupted pedigrees and their inherited centuries of intellect. The Merchant and the Rabbi would both stand as a wholesome lesson to those who are narrow-minded enough to perpetuate the spirit of persecution, both unchristian and unintelligent, which has been so widespread in history.
Three of the portraits are painted with an effect more nearly approaching to natural daylight: No. 775, the delightful old woman, with a deep lace collar, and No. 1675, a masterly study of hale old age. His own portrait occurs again in No. 221, executed after the cares of life had passed over him.
There is a popular impression that Rembrandt usually painted in about the same manner, so that his pictures are easily recognized; in all of his works, to be sure, is that undefinable virility and personal touch which gives them an expression in common; but no one who looks from the Jewish Rabbi to the Old Lady, No. 775, can claim that his technique was unvaried.
Of figure-compositions there are several specimens for us to examine. The sketchy Deposition, No. 43, and the highly polished rendering of No. 45, Christ and the Adulteress, may be compared with advantage as showing entirely different but consistent treatments with the brush ; in the first, the light is equally distributed; in the second, it is carefully graded, the figures of the chief importance being more illuminated than those of secondary interest. There is a soft, mellow Adoration, No. 47, in what is sometimes alluded to as the ” Bible-by-candle-light ” effect. What could be instanced as a greater proof of versatility than the curious little short, stout woman wading in a pool, No. 54, contrasted with this religious subject?
A pleasing landscape, with characteristic lighting from one side, is No. 72, to which the small irrelevant figures of Tobias and the Angel give its name. Rembrandt was the great apostle of the simple, the uncomplex, as far as the plan and de-tail were concerned. He made his light and shade tell the story which many artists had told by means of line, or a confused multiplication of facts.
Among the works of Rembrandt’s school there is a sweet, quaint rendering of the scene, Christ Blessing Little Children, No. 757. His pupils are represented in large numbers.
Ferdinand Bol, the painter of an Astronomer’s Portrait, No. 679, is among his best disciples in portraiture.
Fabritius painted the two pleasing genre pictures, No. 1338, the Adoration of the Shepherds, and No. 1339, the Nativity of St. John. Like most of the Dutch figure-painters, Fabritius has fitted religious names to studies of Dutch interiors. The chubby child in his little round hat and reefer is singularly unlike the usual presentment of young bystanders in religious pictures.
An excellent piece of good wholesome daylight may be seen in Jan Victors’s Village Cobbler, No. 1312. This is as merry a bit of homely cheer as a Hogarth or a Wilkie.
Delightful examples of the work of Nicolas Maes may be studied in the National Gallery. He lived from 1632 to 1693, and was especially famous for his figure-painting. Of No. 159, the Dutch House-wife, the painter, C. R. Leslie, has spoken so appreciatively that it would be a mistake not to quote him at this point. He says : ” There are few pictures in our National Gallery before which I find myself more often standing than the very small one by Nicolas Maes, the subject of which is the scraping of a parsnip. A decent-looking Dutch housewife sits engaged in this operation, with a fine chubby child standing by her side watching the process, as children will stand and watch the most ordinary operations, with an intensity of interest. . . . It is not the light and colour of this charming little gem, superlative as they are, that constitute the great attraction, for a mere outline of it would arrest the attention, among a thousand subjects of its class, and many pictures as beautiful in effect might not interest so much ; but it is the delight at seeing a trait of childhood we have often observed and been amused with in nature, for the first time so felicitously given in art.” No. 153, the Little Nurse, is full of this same quality of interest. The pride in responsibility, expressed on the jovial face of the little girl, is admirable. No. 207, the Idle Servant, is very well known, and is among the finest pictures by this artist. The tolerance, and yet the discouragement, of the patient Frouw, who comes upon the stupid sleeping maid in the pantry, could not be more expressive. In this picture one may note a feature which will be met with constantly among the Dutchmen, their love for leading the eye beyond the main centre of interest through an open door or window, or up a little vista; an opportunity to introduce a second principle of lighting in the background. It is a most delightful trait in these domestic scenes, and constantly to be met with; perhaps this peculiarity goes farther than any one other in producing the ” cosiness ” which is so general a quality in Dutch genre painting. Very interesting is the picture of the Card Players, No. 1247, also by Maes, the earnest anxiety of the girl being excellently contrasted with the assured satisfaction of the young man.
Eeckhout’s Chiefs of the Wine Guild, No. 1459, is a strong study in types, and the Convivial Party, No. 1278, by Hendrik Pot, is a jovial group of excellent delineation. Observe the little dog which licks the hand of his tipsy master, as if to ask for an explanation or to express sympathy. No. 1294 is by Poorter, the subject is not easy to define. It may be allegorical, or it may be the Dutch interpretation of the vigil of arms of a young knight.
Van der Helst, who, according to Sir Joshua, was the ” painter of the first picture of portraits in the world ” in his famous Banqueting Scene in Amsterdam, is represented in London by two portraits of women, Nos. 140 and 1248. Carefully finished, they are excellent examples of the smooth varnished type of Dutch workmanship.
It is always a delight to come upon a portrait by Frans Hals, and here we are greeted by two charming subjects, a man and a woman, Nos. 1021 and 1251. Both have the expression of being ready to burst into a laugh, although there is no actual smile on the face of either. Most virile, almost with the play of thought made visible in the countenances, these two people look out at us from the thrifty, happy Dutch life of the seventeenth century. Some portrait-painters are great as Italians, others as Dutchmen, and others as Frenchmen ; Frans Hals is universally great. There is no strictly local quality about his work, it is vitally natural, and human in its appeal. There is nothing about his art which would not apply equally well to the demands of the French, the Italian, or even English standards. He was a great modern, and he will never be out of date. A story of Hals is frequently told, which sounds characteristic of the jolly painter. Van Dyck, then only twenty-two, paid a visit incognito to Hals, requesting him to paint his portrait. Hals agreed, and, with his marvellous facility, painted the likeness in a surprisingly short time. Van Dyck inspected the picture, and then observed, nonchalantly, ” Painting is easier than I thought, let us change places, and see what I can do.” Hals, to gratify his eccentric sitter, submitted with polite tolerance. Van Dyck, who was equally rapid in his execution, quickly turned out a sketch of the older artist. When Hais saw what he had done, he rushed upon him and embraced him, exclaiming, ” The man who can do that must be either Van Dyck or the devil ! ”
Cornelis van Poelenburg’s small picture of a ruin, with women bathing in the foreground, No. 955, is unusual in Dutch art, in that it exhibits the nude.
A bright, pleasing little tondo is Avercamp’s gay little scene of skaters on a frozen river, No. 1346, and his other similar picture, No. 1479. These studies are full of crisp winter glee, and one is surprised to hear that the painter was called the Dumb Man of Campen, not because he was unable to speak, but because he was such a glum, silent recluse ! Walter Pater alludes to pictures of this class as having ” all the delicate comfort of the frosty season,” speaking of their ” leafless branches, the furred dresses of the skaters, the warmth of the red brick house-fronts, and the gleam of pale sun-light.”
A spirited painter of war-scenes and soldier life is Philips Wouwerman. His Battle, No. 976, is a fine bit of detail. While fond of military subjects, he also painted landscapes, of which Nos. 882 and 973 are characteristic and interesting examples. The Stag Hunt, No. 975, is full of action and verve, while No. 880, dealing with peaceful bar-ter and exchange, shows a huntsman driving a bargain with a fishwife on the seashore. A mirthful piece is No. 878, called, in the catalogue, A Halt of Officers, but oftener known as the Pretty Milkmaid, for the halt is made in order to enable one of their number to dismount and pay compliments to a pretty girl who is carrying a milk-can. Ruskin does not consider Wouwerman a great artist, criticizing his handling severely : but he admits that there is ” of clever dotty, spark-ling, telling execution, as much as the canvas will hold.” His works have also been characterized as ” nonsense pictures,” a mere collection of ” items without a meaning,” which criticism seems a little intolerant and exaggerated, as didactic criticism usually is.
Of the work of Adriaan van Ostade we have only one specimen, No. 846, the Alchemist, but it is a fine one, exhibiting his love for homely detail, and his indifference to the consideration of beauty, He was a pupil of Hals, but obtained the sobriquet of ” Rembrandt in Little.” In his early work golden tones prevail, as also in his latest ; but in the intervening years he tended rather to red and violet tones. This picture is of his middle period. In this painting of the Alchemist, there is a scrap of paper lying beneath a stool in the central fore-ground, on which is inscribed the Dutch equivalent for ” You are wasting your cost and pains.” Adriaan van Ostade brought up his younger brother, Isaac, to be an artist also, and there are four pictures by him in the National Gallery. A delightfully crisp frosty bit, called the Frozen River, No. 848, almost seems to crackle with the winter chill, while a Pastoral, No. 847, glows with sun-shine and warmth. The same contrasts may be observed in Nos. 963 and 1347, one of winter and the other of summer.
The Philosopher, No. 1481, is also by a pupil of Adriaan van Ostade, Cornelis Bega, and the idea has been somewhat inspired by that of the picture by his master, although technically there are many points of difference.
One of the most fascinating figure-painters of Holland was Jan Steen. An irregular Bohemian in his mode of living, this artist has infused into his work a certain careless abandon and cheerful quality which, when not carried to excess, is both charming and amusing. As he left a legacy to the world of more than five hundred minutely finished pictures, full of coherent thought and consistent detail, it is not possible that he was so entirely a sot and a ne’er-do-weel as he has been represented, for the actual time required for the production of such a gallery of masterpieces proves that he had industry, clear-headed ability to observe life, and a steady hand to portray it. No. 856, the Music Master, is full of expression, and both that and No. 1378, An Itinerant Musician Approaching a Family Group, have the attractive little vistas in the back-ground for which this master was famous. Music seems to be the basal principle of all the Steens in the National Gallery, for in No. 1421 it is again the theme. The scene this time is out-of-doors; the lady is holding a sheet of music, while a per-former 0n a lute is entertaining her and a gentleman with a selection. Steen may be characterized as holding the position of a Dutch Hogarth : satire and comment are evident in all his pictures. These three pictures in London show him at his most refined, portraying scenes from respectable and even high life, while we have no sample of the boisterous vulgarity which frequently mars the grace of his achievement. No. 1378 was bequeathed to the National Gallery by Sir William Gregory, who had obtained it at a bargain,” as he writes.
A French dealer,” he says, ” offered me two hundred and fifty pounds for it the day after I had bought it for two pounds three shillings ! ”
There is a curious crowded little Dutch study of ruins, No. 1061, by Poel, representing the destruction caused by the explosion of a powder-mill near Delft in 1654.
Jan Molenaer’s Musical Pastime, No. 1293, re-minds us of Steen’s subjects as we see them here. It is very lively and agreeable, full of enjoyment and spontaneity.
A most important Dutch painter comes next under consideration, Gerard Terborch, formerly called, incorrectly, Terburg. He was born in 1617, and early showed great talent for drawing, making numerous little sketches. His father collected these manifestations of genius, and some of them are still preserved, with loving inscriptions on the mar-gins, such as, ” Drawn by Gerard after nature, on the 26th of April, 1626,” and other proud parental comments. A letter of the elder Terborch to his son proves that the artist’s earliest influences were of the best. ” Draw constantly,” writes the father; ” when you paint, treat modern subjects as much as possible. Have regard to purity and freshness of colouring. . . . Above all, serve God, be honest, humble, and useful to all, and your affairs will turn out well.” The young artist travelled a great deal; he visited England, France, and Italy. There, becoming acquainted with the Spanish ambassador, he was invited to Spain, where his youthful fascinations worked such havoc among the Spanish ladies that he was obliged to flee from jealous rivals. Settling down in Holland after this, Terborch became rapidly famous. By that time the country had been in a state of peace long enough for the accumulation of wealth among its inhabitants, and Terborch was constantly employed with portraits and pictures representing the luxurious life of the upper classes. He was the first of the Dutchmen to portray this side of the national life. A fashion-able painter, he naturally studied to please the wealthy patrons who employed him. His pictures are usually small, intended as gems of decoration about luxurious homes, rather than as ornaments to public buildings. But he was not led astray into unduly florid gorgeousness : he drew rather the refined elegance of really good society than the inordinate display of the newly rich. His pictures have a restrained simplicity and intimate charm which are very refreshing. His colour-scheme, too, is soft; never garish, although more splendid in some of his works than in those which we shall have the pleasure of examining. No. 896, the Peace of Münster, is his most famous work. It is on copper, and barely two feet by one and a half; and yet he has enshrined in this small space one of the most notable events in history. Wonderful character is depicted in these tiny faces, and, considering its proportions, an almost incredible amount of dignity pervades the composition. The scene is the signing of the great treaty of peace which terminated the Thirty Years’ War. The delegates and ambassadors of the various European powers are standing about a table, and that is practically all there is in the actual composition. But the masterly way in which these sixty little heads are differentiated and rendered is almost unique in a picture of its size. Terborch’s own portrait appears in three-quarter face behind the officer who rests his hand on a chair at the left.
In the Guitar Lesson, No. 864, Terborch is seen at his best as a painter of high life. The golden and white satin of the lady’s dress contrasts in the most extreme way with the Turkish rug which is used as a table-cloth, and yet there is harmony between the two textures, and no incongruity is felt in the colour-scheme. No. 1399 is a, full-length portrait of a Dutch gentleman in the stiff dress of the period. Certainly one is convinced of Terborch’s simplicity when one contemplates this punctilious personage.
Following his master’s traditions, the pupil of Terborch, Gabriel Metsu, painted the same delightful high-bred Netherlanders in their homes. No. 839, the Music Lesson, a favourite subject with Dutch painters of this time, is a lovely bit of light and shade, while No. 838, also a musical subject, the Duet, is equally pleasing in a lower key. More like the usual Dutch genre painting is No. 970, the Drowsy Landlady, the inquiring expression of the dog being inimitable and absolutely true to life.
Another fashionable Dutch painter, Caspar Netscher, may be seen to advantage in the National Gallery. No. 843, Blowing Bubbles, is a charming little scene of two children at a window ; this is the first example with which we meet in this collection of the popular Dutch arrangement in presenting people looking out of an ornate window ; a curtain caught aside is usually seen, and below the window is generally an elaborate piece of bas-relief carving, as in this instance. A charming little picture, Maternal Instruction, No. 844, exhibits some attractive little Dutch children being taught by their mother. On the wall hangs a tiny copy of Rubens’s Brazen Serpent, No. 59 in the National Gallery. The Lady by a Spinning-Wheel, No. 845, is a beautiful example of the treatment of textures; the swan’s-down lying softly across the crisp satin being especially pleasant in its contrast.
A ” window-piece,” illustrating what has recently been said concerning this form of composition, may be seen in No. 841, by Willem van Mieris, the picture, while extremely hard and dry, being finished with great labour. It is sometimes called the Cat, for, after all, the centre of interest is in the touch of feline nature in the foreground, where the cat eyes the head of a tempting duck, which is slung across the sill above. The most attractive Frans van Mieris, the father of Willem, painted the typical Dutch lady, No. 840, who is so earnestly feeding her parrot.
Gerard Dou, born in 1613, was one of the best Dutch painters in genre subjects, some humble and some fashionable, and in portrait-painting. As a worker, however, he was so extremely slow and painstaking, that his sitters often became almost discouraged. He was known to have spent five days in working on one hand of a lady who was having her likeness painted, and, by the time he had finished a face, the model had so weary and un-natural an expression that the result was sometimes unsatisfactory. In No. 1415, in this room, one can detect the tired, strained expression on the face of the woman. This, to be sure, is practically a miniature, and necessarily slow work with most artists ; another of the same size, No. 968, is more pleasing. His portrait of himself, No. 192, is delightful, and when one sees the minute proportions of his work, it is easy to forgive the fact that he was a ” dust crank.” So careful was he in guarding against the slightest speck of dust, that he painted beneath an umbrella in his studio, and never allowed a brush to remain out of its box when not in use. When he went to his studio in the morning, he would sit quietly at his easel before beginning, for some minutes, that the dust raised by his entrance might entirely subside. He had in his manipulation the ” capacity for taking infinite pains,” but he escaped being a genius.
No. 825, the Poulterer’s Shop, is one of Dou’s most noted achievements. The scene is set in a window, like many of his pictures, for Dou was especially addicted to the use of this sort of inner frame for his compositions. The bas-relief in the front is copied from a work by the contemporary sculptor, Duquesnoy. The careful elaboration of the detail in this picture is almost unsurpassed, and one can readily believe all the stories about the time which Dou bestowed upon his work.
Merry little bits of convivial life are the two small ovals by Hendrick Sorgh, Nos. 1055 and 1056.
A follower of Dou’s was Godfried Schalcken, the painter of four charming little pictures, Nos. 199, 997, 998, and 999. One of them exhibits a woman at a window burnishing a vessel of brass; another is one of the well-known musical pieces of this epoch, while No. 199 represents a somewhat sentimental Lesbia weighing her jewels against her sparrow, which appears to have been a phenomenally heavy bird.
Of the work of Aart van der Neer, there are several examples; delightful out-of-door studies, No. 152 being full of sunset glow, while winter freshness sparkles in Nos. 969 and 1288. The figures in the larger picture were painted by other hands, those in No. 152 by Cuyp, and those in the beautiful canal scene, No. 732, by Lingelbach.
Pieter de Hooch, that inimitable painter of domestic life and fascinating Dutch children, is well represented here by three pictures, Nos. 794, 834, and 835. The last named is one of the loveliest ever executed by this painter; the figure of the child is bewitching, and the effect of the vista down the little alleyway very piquant. De Hooch is a more brilliant colourist than many of his contemporaries ; he had an accurate appreciation of relative tones and values; the merrymakers in No. 834 are in a cheerful high key corresponding with their mood. In No. 794, one should note how elusive is the aerial perspective; the very air seems to have been made to fuse together the various planes, and in each gradation the sunlight is living and brilliant.
The clever artist, Vermeer of Delft, who was unappreciated for centuries, has a typical work in the National Gallery. The Lady at a Spinet, No. 1383, is particularly characteristic of his use of blue and gray tones, relieved in many cases by a soft lemon yellow, which is the exact complement to the ” moonlight blue,” as it is usually called. The effect of transitoriness in Vermeer’s pictures is remarkable; he catches the life of the fleeting moment. He painted on a more even plane of light than most of the Dutchmen ; he used no vistas or background illusions to give depth to his compositions, but his shadows are cool and suggest daylight. His edges are seldom sharp, but are modelled and blended in a delightful way.
Cornelis Janssens’s two portraits of Aglonius Voon, No. 1320, and Cornelia Remoens, No. 1321, are excellent examples of this painter, who lived from 1594 to the middle of the seventeenth century.
Of Dutch family portrait groups, that by Bylert should be observed, No. 1292; also No. 1305, by Donck. The Interior of an Art Gallery, No. 1287, is a fascinating subject, and worthy of the closest examination, although its author is unknown. William Duyster’s two pictures, No. 1386, a group of quarrelling soldiers, and No. 1387, players at “uric-trac,” a popular game in the seventeenth century, are good bits of figure-drawing.
Of Dutch landscape-painters, the National Gallery has a large collection. Owing to the limited space for consideration of detail, we must not ex-amine them too minutely. Goyen’s two River Scenes, No. 151, in summer, and No. 1327, in winter, should be compared in order to understand the versatility of this painter. An exquisite transparency and genuine effect of atmosphere characterizes his works.
Ruisdael is seen to perfection in this gallery; his numerous landscapes and nature-studies exhibiting him both as a delineator of stern and barren scenes and of peaceful and domestic ones. Poetry and melancholy characterize the pictures of this artist. Often he selected scenes with a view of expressing only the cruel, unrelenting natural forces. Men and animals he did not succeed in drawing well; so he is very apt to leave them out of his pictures. His work has a mystic fascination. Ruisdael died in great poverty in the almshouse in Haarlem in 1682.
His pictures, though sublime and grand, are not so sympathetic or appealing as those by Goyen. Waterfalls, cataracts, ruins, pine-trees, these are the chief features of his landscapes as they may be seen in London. There is a good deal of sameness in the pictures, but it will repay the student to notice certain features, such as the sun shining on distant water, in No. 990, while in the middle distance all is dark and lowering; the fine shape of the tree in the little picture, No. 988, on a deeply rutted road, and the cosy village basking on the hilltop in No. 986. The horizontally spiked fir-tree is a favourite, it may be seen, in small groups, in Nos. 987, 627, 628, and 737. A pretty story of Ruisdael’s influence to soothe and charm, is told of Sir Robert Peel, when looking at the Forest Scene, in the National Gallery. ” I cannot express to you,” he said, ” the feeling of tranquillity, of restoration, with which, in an interval of harassing official business, I look around me here ! ” He gazed at the Forest Scene ” as if its cool, dewy verdure,” says Mrs. Jameson, ” its deep seclusion, its trans-parent waters, stealing through the glade, had sent refreshment into his very soul ! ” The only very calm rural example of Ruisdael in London is No. 44, the Bleaching Ground. Ruisdael left over four hundred works.
There are four pictures by Jan Wynants; Nos. 883 and 884 are studies of dead and gnarled trees, for which he was especially noted.
Hobbema, delightfully rural, unexcited, sane, gives us the lovely Avenue at Middelharnis, No. 830, which has become familiar all over the world. A moist, delicious bit of atmosphere is No. 685, —-Showery Weather, The sun breaks forth beyond the shower-line in a promise of fair weather to follow. All his pictures should be studied; if the spectator will try to exclude from his vision and thought all other objects, and then concentrate his attention upon any of these exquisite landscapes, he will find that he seems to be transported to the very scenes themselves, and will enjoy, first, the historic romantic charm of Brederode Castle, No. 831, or the purely rustic comfort of the Village, in No. 832 ; or he may climb the rocks in No. 996, or rest in golden light by the pool in No. 833.
Of the work of the great pastoral painter, Paul Potter, there are but two examples for us to observe. No. 849 is a pleasant landscape, with cattle, and No. 1009 the study of a horse, called the Old Gray Hunter. In the same domestic out-of-door school is Adriaen van de Velde, whose Farm Cottage, No. 867, is interesting as an example which is nearly all sky, the horizon being so low that a great effect of cool space is given. The curious mossy dead tree is an unusual feature. In No. 984 the opposite scheme, of a very high horizon, has been employed. A more romantic type of pastoral is the Ford, No. 868, where the detail is suggestive of Lancret. In No. 869 a very different spirit is felt, men are playing hockey on the ice, and a gray chill hangs over all. Showing how versatile and sympathetic is Van de Velde, his pasture, in the shade of a grove, No. 982, has nothing in common with any of his other pictures. The flavour of each of these gems is different, and can be fully appreciated only through comparison.
Aelbert Cuyp is a well-known name to every student of art. His two somewhat similar compositions, Nos. 53 and 822, both represent the evening glow with wonderful truth, and in each case a man on horseback, with his back turned to the spectator, leads one unconsciously onward to the distant scene. Nos. 961 and 962 are also alike, being both studies of cattle resting in the evening. The Windmills, No. 960, is graceful, having taken its name from the distant sails of the mills, which, however, are almost as much a feature in both of the last-named pictures. No. 824 is a drawing of a ruined castle in a lake, and is full of romantic suggestion. The soft, luminous distances of Cuyp are very famous. He is influenced, especially in this effect of light, by Claude Lorrain.
Another painter who came under the spell of Claude was Jan Both. There are several of his pictures here. It is evident that the more artificial idea of a set landscape picture, rather than a scrap of localized nature, had begun to obtain. No. 71 is a grand display of mountain scenery; No. 956 is equally impressive and unsympathetic. The Judgment of Paris, in No. 209, is a mere incident in a study of compiled natural phenomena ; more directness and simplicity appear in Nos. 958 and 957.
Two majestic wild moorland scenes by Koninck should be observed, Nos. 836 and 974, and, in sharp contrast, Hackaert’s Stag Hunt, No. 829, with its jaunty riders and leaping animals.
Among the Italianizers is Nicolas Berchem, whose six rather uninteresting pictures hang here ; they are warm and fine in colour, but do not greatly attract the interest. His work and that of Karel du Jardin may be superficially classed together, although the human interest is greater in the latter, especially in Nos. 827 and 828.
The French influence is strongly felt in Moucheron’s Garden Scene, No. 842. An unwarrantable amount of variety exists in many landscapes of Dutch seventeenth-century conceit. This classical and Italianizing tendency was met and answered by an attempt on the part of certain Dutchmen to depict their own native buildings as rivals to the prevailing forums and piazzas. One of these men was Beerstraaten, who is represented in the London collection by a castle of Dutch construction (probably that of Muiden), surrounded by skaters on the frozen moat, No. 1311. Berck-Heyde’s view in Haarlem is also one of these protesting works, No. 1420, which, it must be admitted, is a very picturesque Dutch scene. An architectural painting of some value as a bit of draughtsmanship and perspective is No. Iola, a study of Renaissance buildings by Dirck van Delen, but Heyden’s pictures, No. 866, a Street in Cologne, and Nos. 992 and 994, which exhibit good architectural painting, and Witte’s Interior of a Church, No. 1053, both in this class, are more interesting. In rendering architectural detail Witte has unusual ability to retain the picturesque.
At the head of the marine painters of the Dutch school stands the name of Willem van de Velde. He was a brother of Adriaen van de Velde, whose works we have recently mentioned. He is un-questionably one of the greatest marine painters who has ever lived, independent of locality. In the National Gallery are no less than fourteen of his works, ranging from absolute calm and peace, in Nos. 149 and 980, through the breezy and vital No. 875 or 872, to such scenes of tempest and terror as Nos. 150 and 981. The handling is faultless for the purposes of the artist, and no man has ever so enslaved the elements within the limits of paint and panel. His preference is for calm, or, at any rate, pleasantly animated subjects, in which he differs from another famous Dutchman, Ludolf Bakhuizen, who glories in the uncomfortable in his nautical selections. His picture, No. 223, Dutch shipping, is crowded with boats tossing at every angle, and he delighted in such scenes as No. 1442, in which peril seems to await any movement on the part of any vessel ! When one looks at Bakhuizen’s pictures, the inimitable doggerel of C. S. Calverly will insist upon coming into one’s mind:
“Boats were curtseying, rising, bowing, Boats in that climate are so polite ! ”
The charming coast and river scenes by Capelle should be noticed, and admired particularly for their beautiful feathery cloud effects. Five fine specimens are to be seen at the National Gallery.
Among the Dutch painters of still life who greatly resemble each other at a superficial glance, may be noted Walscappelle, whose study of flowers and fruits, No. 1002, hangs here. There is a large panel of flowers by Jan van Huysum, No. 796, in which the centre of interest is found in a little bird’s nest with eggs in it, lying at the base of a stone vase. The execution of these works is almost miraculous for its extreme finish. In No. 1001, also by Huysum, observe the little snail which is crawling toward the bunch of flowers. Similar and excellent flower-studies may be seen by Jan van Os, Nos. 1015 and 1380, and by Rachel Ruysch, a talented woman who was famous for her pictures of still life, Nos. 1445 and 1446. Melchior de Hondecoeter devoted himself to poultry and farm-yard scenes, which he executed in great perfection. There are three of his paintings in the gallery, No. 202, in which the fluffy little chickens are most attractive, comparing delightfully with the tiny ducklings in No. 1013. The interest exhibited by the birds, in No. 1222, in a frog which has chanced upon them, is amusing, and shows love and observation of the smaller life, and also an appreciation of the humourous in situations of this kind. Heda’s Study of Still Life a very untidy corner of a supper-table, No. 1469 is quite a tour de force, as is also the more temperate picture by Herman Steenwyck, No. 1256, in which a human skull forms a conspicuous part.
We will close this chapter with a quotation from John C. Van Dyke, who has written most appreciatively of the Dutch school : ” The Dutchman does not nurse visions in religion, politics, or art. He calls for the common sense of things, and cares little for idealities. Obviously, as Fromentin has observed, there was nothing in art for such a people but to have its portrait painted. Dutch art is only a portrait of Holland and its people.”