No foreign artist is so closely associated with England and English traditions as Rubens’s brilliant pupil, Anthony Van Dyck. What great English mansion is complete without its row of family ancestors ascribed with more or less of likelihood to the great Flemish portrait painter, whom we have almost come to claim as one of ourselves? It was indeed from English collections that the great majority of his works were sent to Antwerp to swell the Exhibition held in 1899, at the tercentenary of his birth. Holbein also, it is true, lived and worked in this country, but it was not his spirit which awoke again in the eighteenth century, when our own great painters,’ Reynolds and Gains-borough, taught Englishmem to look in the future to native genius. In a sense indeed Van Dyck may be regarded as the forerunner of English portrait painting.
When Van Dyck first saw the light in Antwerp in 1599, the year of Velasquez’s birth, Rubens was just emerging from studentship and about to set off to Italy. Historians have delighted to dwell on the influence of the delicate and accomplished mother, of her skill in embroidery, and her careful training of the young Anthony during his first years of boyhood. Something of her subtle feminine charm, with its note of languor and melancholy, seems to have descended upon her son, and to breathe throughout his worka charm so strangely in contrast with the vigour and almost overpowering virility of Rubens. It was not until Van Dyck had become a fully-qualified painter under the instruction of van Balen, an Antwerp artist who never rose beyond mediocrity, that he came to be associated with Rubens, the ambition of every aspiring young artist in the city. When hundreds of pupils were being turned away from the great man’s over-crowded studio, it was some distinction to gain an entry. So Van Dyck became Rubens’s assistant, if not technically his pupil, and being of a sensitive, impressionable nature, quickly adopted the style of his master, thereby creating a series of puzzles which to this day are not entirely solved. For so close was the artistic bond between Rubens and this his avowed “best pupil” that it is often difficult to distinguish between them. Certain pictures are bandied backwards and forwards from one to the other by art historians, and in several cases canvases, once firmly attached to Rubens’s fame, have been discovered to owe their being to the younger artist. Such an one is the famous “S. Martin dividing his Cloak” at Windsor, and an equally remarkable example of the confusion between the two painters is that gem of the National Gallery, formerly ascribed to Rubens, and now recognised as a work of Van Dyck’s youth, the portrait of ” Cornelius van der Geest” (52), in the large Dutch and Flemish Room (X.).
This wonderful picture is, from every point of view, a most accomplished piece of work, and proves that Van Dyck, even before his visit to Italy, possessed that sense of refinement and elegance which forms so distinct a feature of his later portraits. In technique it would be hard to find firmer, more solid modelling, or a finer rendering of the texture of the flesh and of the silvery hair and beard. Above all, the eyes are painted with such extraordinary power and vitality, that they seem to reveal their owner’s inmost thoughts, and speak of the busy brain which lies behind the quiet, rather worn features. The head is finely disposed within the frame, the warm flesh tones standing out effectively in front of the dark background, and the delicate oval of the face is repeated and emphasised by the lightly painted white ruff. There is a wonderful distinction, both about the subject and the manner of portrayal. This calm, self-possessed scholar type must have been singularly attractive to Van Dyck, with his fastidious instinct for the noble and chivalrous in a face. No touch of bravura mars the restrained dignity of the execution ; yet this is the work of a boy barely approaching his twenties. He has left a record of his own almost girlish features and wavy hair in a portrait at S. Petersburg, of which a smaller replica here has now been transferred to the Artists’ Room of the National Portrait Gallery. Notice the delicate, drooping hand with long, taper fingers, with which he invests fine ladies and rugged warriors alike, seldom troubling, save in the case of portraits of his fellow-artists, to individualise this characteristic feature. It is a pleasant, courtly, though weak face, and tallies with what we know of Van Dyck’s typically “artistic temperament,” that apologetic generalisation for a certain weakness and love of pleasure that in men of other professions would be defined in harsher terms. The ” Portrait of an Artist ” (49), once believed to represent Rubens, must also have been painted about this time. The careless pose suggests the “graceful and negligent ease of a man of quality,” and the gesture of the large, beautiful hands carries out the idea that their owner is giving an order to the work-men, of somewhat southern aspect, who are holding up a marble figure. This picture belonged once to Sir Joshua Reynolds, as did also the much darkened “Study of Horses” (156), in the same room. It was, too, during those few years spent under Rubens’s direct influence that Van Dyck executed the copy of that master’s ” Theodosius” (50) already referred to, and painted the small grisaille from the “Miraculous Draught of Fishes” (680) close by.
But a second and even stronger spirit was to take possession of the young painter, who now, acting on Rubens’s advice and example, set off on the accustomed tour to Italy. Halting for a short stay at Genoa, he journeyed to Rome, and then by way of Florence to the real goal of his ambitions, Venice, the city of Titian. Here Van Dyck found his second master, and, like Rubens before him, sat at the feet of the great colourist, whose very name sums up the essence of Venetian painting. We have but to glance through Van Dyck’s sketch-book at Chatsworth, that vivid record of his studies and artistic impressions, to realise how completely Titian dominated the young artist’s mind and inspired his brush. ” Pensieri di Titiano” meet us on almost every page, and memories of Titian breathe from the dignified, self-composed portraits of the Italian grandees, who gladly sat to this attractive foreigner. Rubens, too, had studied the works of Titian in Venice, Rome and Madrid, but for all the hints he gathered and assimilated his own robust, energetic nature asserted itself, even where he approached most nearly to the Venetian. Van Dyck was by taste and temperament in complete sympathy with the suave grandeur of Italian art. The subtle elegance and distinction of the great masters of the Italian Renaissance found an answering chord in him. He was indeed one of nature’s aristocrats, and the impress of his noble, poetic spirit is stamped on every face he portrayed, be it of man, woman or child, Italian prince, Flemish burgher or English courtier. Thus in the polite, intellectual atmosphere of Italy he was quite at his ease, and bore himself so haughtily that his rougher compatriots in Rome, resentful of his proud aloofness, dubbed him the ” cavalier painter. ”
In Genoa, where the greater part of this Italian period was passed, Van Dyck has left an undying memorial of his presence in the superb series of portraits painted for the great patrician families, whose palaces still retain many of their ancestral treasures. These majestic figures, posed so nobly, with such proud unconsciousness and grand dignity of bearing, discover the painter of van der Geest’s portrait maturing in the stimulating atmosphere of Titian’s influence. The stately full-length ” Portrait of an Italian Gentleman” in Hertford House (XVI., 53) dates from this period. The face is gravely sedate, but with a certain pleasant alertness ; the simple yet rich black dress, with its wide white collar and deep cuffs, is set off by the Titianesque crimson curtain draped behind. It is supposed that this young cavalier was a scion of the great Lomellini house, whose family portrait forms one of the treasures of the Edinburgh National Gallery. A portrait in Hertford House of the painter himself, in the guise of the shepherd Paris holding the fateful apple in his hand (XVI., 85), was again obviously designed while reminiscences of Titian’s rich colouring possessed our painter’s artistic vision.
With Van Dyck’s return to Antwerp begins his third period, when, no longer dependent on the masters who had formed him, he stands at last by himself, and develops that distinctive style which is neither that of Rubens nor of Titian, but of Van Dyck. Now in his turn he is master, and the absence of Rubens, who was at this time engaged upon diplomatic missions, no doubt threw additional opportunities in . the younger artist’s way. Judging from the number of portraits painted during this brilliant Antwerp period, the whole Flemish world must have flocked to be immortalised by the artist who made every man a gentleman, every woman a lady of quality, and endowed his sitters with a grace and charm that no doubt accorded at least with their own ideal of themselves.
Two impressive full-length portraits of this time hang in the great gallery at Hertford House, and represent a Flemish gentleman, Philippe le Roy, Seigneur de Ravel, and his young bride (XV I., 94 and 79). We may contrast the sober, almost monochrome colouring of these pictures with the lighter, even gay treatment of the succeeding period, when the brilliance of the English court attire was reflected on to the painter’s canvases. The Seigneur de Ravel, in his stately black and white, bulks superbly in front of the dark architectural background. The only relief to this sombre colour scheme is given by the deep red of a hollyhock on the right. Full of quiet self-possession and innate good breeding, the Seigneur faces the spectator, while his hand caresses a splendid deerhound.
The pendent portrait of his young bride, a girl of only sixteen summers, is scarcely less fine. Here the colder tones are relieved by the light yellow of her curly hair. The face, refined and beautiful though it be, expresses a discontented fretfulness, which goes beyond the evanescent shade of melancholy that breathes from most of Van Dyck’s sitters. Another portrait of a lady in Hertford House (XVI., 16), introduces us to that circle of Antwerp artists and their wives whom Van Dyck excelled in portraying. This pleasant-featured lady was the wife of Paul de Vos, the animal painter, brother of the better known Cornelis de Vos, Van Dyck’s intimate friend.
It is to this period of his career that most of Van Dyck’s religious pictures belong, and of these we have few examples in England, and none in the National collections. Many of them still hang, in much damaged condition, in the churches for which they were originally destined. A great assemblage of these altar-pieces was brought together in Antwerp in 1899, and served to emphasise the fact that in portraiture, rather than in the domain of religious art, Van Dyck’s true genius was displayed. The breadth of mind, the power of emotion, by which the great painters compel our sympathy, and force a realisation of the poetic grandeur and dramatic intensity of such scenes as the Crucifixion and the Entombment, were not his. The unconscious dignity and grandeur of his portraiture contrast curiously with the exaggerated rhetoric and forced emotion of these Church pictures, which bear in every pose and gesture the impress of the Catholic Reaction. A study for the great ” Crucifixion ” at Ghent, known as “Le Christ à l’Eponge” (877a), may be found in the cartoon cabinet. Here also is a drawing of “Rinaldo and Armida ” (877b) from one of his rare mythological pictures. The original painting is said to have moved Charles I. to desire Van Dyck’s services at his Court.
It was in 1632 that Van Dyck took final leave of the pleasant Antwerp life, and settled in England, where, but for two short journeys, he spent the brief remainder of his days. If in Antwerp he had always been second in the artistic world, overshadowed by Rubens’s fame, here in England, where he had influential friends anxious to introduce him to a king who made the collection of pictures a royal hobby, he might well hope to become the reigning maestro. And indeed the rival foreign painters, Janssens and Mytens, whose jealous hostility he had excited on a former visit, soon succumbed to his supremacy and fell into the background. So Van Dyck was established in a house at Blackfriars, with the title of ” Principal Painter in Ordinary to their Majesties,” a substantial pension and the distinction of a knighthood. ” We painters,” said the Spanish artist, Palomino, “hold no such low position as not to be able to confer some favour even on royalty itself.” That Van Dyck was fully conscious of this power may be seen from the manifold portraits of the King and Queen and their children to be found in all the picture galleries of Europe. How entirely the painter was suited by tastes, appearance and manner for such a position had been proved in Italy, and his natural grace and refinement, his very gallantries and indiscretions, endeared him to a Court like that of Whitehall. He was as improvident as the King himself, as light-hearted as his royal mistress, as handsome as my Lords of Richmond and Wharton. The gaiety of the court of Charles I. and his sylph-like Queen, Henrietta Maria, were incomparably less vivid to our minds had we not the means of repeopling it with the splendid and brilliant personalities who now stand before us in serene forgetfulness of the passions and ambitions that made the history of their age. Van Dyck has handed them down in all their bravery of costly attire and aristocratic mien. King and Queen, lords and ladies, statesmen and ecclesiastics have attained an immortality that the chronicler alone could scarce have accorded them. He kept open house, and his studio was continually filled with royal and noble patrons, who would come floating down the Thames in their gay barges to visit this ” Prince of court painters.” It was as much the fashion then to be painted by Van Dyck as it is now to admire his pictures. But it was this very tyrant of fashion that brought about the inevitable evil of over-production, and turned the artist into the director of a portrait factory. Some, indeed, have maintained that Van Dyck’s best work was done before he left Antwerp, that he made no progress afterwards. But in such masterpieces as the ” Philip, Lord Wharton,” in the Hermitage, the lovely group of the “Children of Charles I.” at Turin, and the portraits of the King and Queen at Windsor, executed entirely by his own hand, we see the painter at his very best.
In the place of honour in Room X. in the National Gallery hangs Van Dyck’s huge equestrian ” Portrait of Charles I.” (1172). Very imposing is this great state – portrait, placed as it is at the end of a long perspective of rooms leading into the great gallery. The monarch sits very kingly astride his splendid charger, dominating the landscape, with its distant low horizon, above which the great sweep of sombre blue sky varied with clouds, and the overhanging trees, framing in the figure like a kind of canopy, form a fine decorative background. The equerry, almost lost in shadow on the right behind his master, bears the plumed helmet which Charles has doffed, and lends a grateful touch of warm red to the picture. The creamy brown horse, with its small head and massive frame, so different from the white steed Van Dyck has taught us to expect in his pictures, is of Flemish breed. Horse and rider are seen in profile, and the lines of the reins and of the sword converge on the armour-clad figure of the king. Here, indeed, is no warrior type but the irresponsible, amiable, art-loving gentleman, of whom the accident of royal birth proved the undoing.
This portrait, which was painted two or three years after the artist’s arrival in England, passed through various hands before it reached the National Gallery. Sold after Charles’s execution for a mere song, it was bought by the great Duke of Marlborough on one of his foreign campaigns. After hanging for many years at Blenheim Palace, it was sold to the nation for a vast sum in 1885. The other great equestrain portrait of Charles, now at Windsor, represents the King full-face, riding a grey horse through an archwaya majestic picture, of which there is a replica at Hampton Court. Numerous, indeed, are the portraits by Van Dyck of Charles I. and his Queen, though it is certain that all were not painted actually from the life. Sketches, a good memory, and clothes draped on to a lay figure, no doubt afforded the material for most of the repetitions of the type-portraits which still remain at Windsor ; and by these means Van Dyck was able to turn out as many copies or variations as might be demanded.
As a portrait painter Van Dyck takes his place with the greatest. As an artist he falls into second rank, for his was not the imaginative grasp nor the power of invention that go to the making of the greatest art. When he ventures outside the realm of portraiture he is seldom entirely convincing, and though all his life he hankered after a chance of displaying his powers as an historical painter on a large scale, it is doubtful whether he would have added to his reputation had the desired opportunity been granted him. In his portraiture he stands almost at the opposite pole from Holbein and Velasquez, for while the German and the Spaniard seem to think only of the sitter, Van Dyck’s attention is divided between his sitter, himself and his audience. If he flatters it is from an instinctive preference for the beautiful, which outweighs his regard for the strict truth. His own fancy invests ordinary men and women with dignity and grace, and lends an additional charm to what is already charming.
Though Rubens and his greatest pupil died within a year of one another, Flemish art was not extinguished. Antwerp could boast a number of capable artists, and though by no means every well-known painter of the day had stood to Rubens in the direct relation of pupil to master, none had wholly escaped his overwhelming influence. It was indeed the age of Rubens, and Flemish art in the seventeenth century reflects his spirit and style, just as the Venetian contemporaries of Titian, a century earlier, almost all betrayed something of a Titianesque manner. The painter who perhaps approaches Rubens most closely, while preserving a decidedly independent character of his own, was Jordaens, the pupil and son-in-law of Rubens’s early master, van Noort. Jordaens, unlike the majority of his contemporaries, never went to Italy, where he might, perhaps, have purged his style of something of its almost brutal vigour and realism. His taste and manner of representation are often far from refined, especially in his religious pictures, but in colouring and execution he is, at his best, scarcely inferior to Rubens. His most characteristic and oft-repeated works are those in which he re-presents a Bean Feast, where a joyous company revel in unrestrained merriment, or a family party, when, having eaten and drunk their fill, old and young make music after the fashion of the old Flemish proverb : ” As the old ones sing, so will the youngsters twitter.” In such scenes his humour and boisterous jollity find legitimate vent. As an historical painter we may gauge his prowess in the great “Triumph of Prince Frederick Henry” in the famous House in the Wood near the Hague, a lively, spirited and accomplished piece of decoration in the bombastic, allegorical style of the day. It is only lately that an example of his art has been added to the National Gallery, in the shape of the fine ” Portrait of Baron Waha de Linter of Namur” (1895). Half leaning against a table, with arm akimbo and hand on sword hilt, the Baron’s form fills the panel with great aplomb. The small head, with its crimson flesh tints and short, pointed beard, is well set within a deep ruff. The black brocade of the dress is superbly handled, almost in the manner of Frans Hals, and the whole picture has been painted with a wet and flowing touch. There is a refinement in Jordaens’s portraits which we often seek in vain in his subject pictures. He is particularly happy in his representations of family groups, notably the portraits of his own household at Cassel and Madrid. The Wallace collection contains a somewhat unattractive example of his mythological style in the “Riches of Autumn” (XVII., 120), which recalls a finer work in Brussels. Both are painted in his early glassy manner.
A very different spirit was Cornelis de Vos, who, though working in Antwerp alongside of Rubens and Van Dyck, seems only gradually to have disengaged himself from the formal objective style of portraiture of the sixteenth century. He is rather the successor of Pourbus and More than the contemporary of Rubens. In his portrait groups at Brussels and Munich, however, de Vos shows a graciousness and elegance which his friend Van Dyck must have admired and noted. A pair of portraits in Hertford House (XVI., i8 and 22), painted in his early reserved manner, exhibit his firm handling and quiet, clear, harmonious colour. The man, grave, strong and thoughtful, clad in sober black, gazes directly out of the picture at the spectator. His wife, in her richest attire, with starched ruff and stiff stomacher like gilt armour, wears the rather timid expression of the bourgeoise who is more at her ease in the daily affairs of the household than posed in state before the painter for the benefit of posterity.
Another artist and contemporary of Rubens, who worked side by side with the great master, though never under him, was the animal and still-life painter, Frans Snyders, whose noble refined features Van Dyck has perpetuated in several portraits, among them the wonderful etching from the ” Iconographie.” Snyders, though the friend and admirer of Rubens, seems to have pursued his art on his own lines, _his individual manner asserting itself in his light, clear tonality with strong, sometimes hard, local colours. The two painters often exchanged the courtesies of their artSnyders inserting the animals and fruits into Rubens’s figure pieces, Rubens adding the figures which enliven or perhaps disturb his friend’s natures mortes. Snyders, like Rubens, to whom, even in his own special branch of art, he stands second, excels in the heroic side of animal painting. Swift movement or furious onslaught, dogs and stags in the excitement of the chase, lions mauling a wild boar, hunts, attacks and deadly en-counters inspire his energetic brush.
It is, however, as a painter of still-life that Snyders is represented in the National Gallery, where we find one of those heaped fruit-pieces (1252) which, in vast monumental dimensions, served for the decoration of palatial dining – halls. This is a smaller and less important example, but illustrates Snyders’s skill in rendering the texture of fruits. The white grapes and nectarines, to which a monkey is liberally helping himself, are beautifully treated. A larger canvas, in Hertford House (XVI., 72), displays a table covered with dead game and fruits, presided over by a youthone of those larder scenes for which the eating-house kept by his parents no doubt afforded the painter a convenient model. But, for all the thoroughness and vigour of the draughtsmanship and execution, we cannot but feel the colouring to be cold and dull.
What a colour opportunity is lost in the gorgeous plumage of the peacock, the scarlet lobster, the rich purple grapes and the soft brown skin of the deer ! But in this matter Snyders belied the good tradition of the Flemish school. His pupil, Jan Fyt, ranks scarcely below him as a painter of animals, and as a colourist he shows that sense of harmony which the older painter lacked. The still – life piece, which forms a pendant to that of Snyders in Hertford House (XVI., 10i), exhibits this superiority. Here the inanimate objects are wrought into a pleasant colour-scheme, and a warm, rich tone contrasts agree-ably with the harshness of the rival canvas. But, above all, Fyt’s skill is called out in the portrayal of animals, especially of dogs, and in his delicate, unobtrusive rendering of the texture of fur and plumage. A study of dead birds (1003) in the National Gallery (XII.), and a recently added picture of ” Sporting Dogs and Game” (1903) in Room XI., exhibit his powers in both these respects. The dogs are admirable and truly canine, alert and intelligent, but with no touch of that sentimentalism which makes us disbelieve in Landseer’s dog-portraits. His colouring here is clear and vigorous.
A later still-life painter, Peter Snyers, who flourished in Antwerp in the eighteenth century, and is said to have visited London, is represented in the same room by a warm, vigorous study of fruits, flowers and vegetables (1401), in which the reds of the straw-berries, nectarines and peonies tell out boldly against the dark green of the foliage and the black back-ground.
Beside these still-life and animal subjects another branch of painting was becoming popular in the seventeenth century, when Neefs and the Steenwycks, father and son, began to treat as worthy subjects for their own sakes the architectural interiors which had served the earlier painters for backgrounds to their religious scenes. Neefs and his compatriots in the southern Catholic provinces had indeed more genial models for their art than were available to their con-temporaries in Holland, where the rigorous creed of Calvin had swept the vast, barn-like churches bare of all that might attract the eye and distract the mind. Yet the Dutch painters contrived from these gaunt, uncompromising interiors to create, by means of light and shade, pictures full of poetic beauty. Pieter Neefs, the pupil of the elder Steenwyck, sought pictorial beauty in the simple arrangement of the lines of architecture. His long perspectives of pillared nave and vaulting are wonderfully restful, though they lack just that charm of chiaroscuro which the Dutch understood so perfectly. The ” Interior of a Gothic Church ” (924) in Room X., is a good illustration of his formal style and rather heavy brown tonality. Numbers of figures people these interiors, strolling about or standing in groups, for after the fashion of Catholic countries the church is a familiar scene of daily life, not, as in Holland, a wilderness of whitewash, reserved for a Sabbatical Sunday. In the ” Interior (1443) by the younger Steenwyck in Room XI., beggars, dogs, and numbers of women in quaint black costumes throng the aisles ; a funeral is taking place in the distance, and a priest reads Mass at a side altar. This picture, which is far more natural in colouring than the last, is very pleasant in its delicate modulations of light and shade and its clear grey harmonies. A delightful little “Interior” (1132), also ascribed to Steenwyck, hangs in Room X., and represents this time not a church but the hall of a house, with a staircase leading to an inner room. The tiny picture is painted with the utmost delicacy and a warm richness. The various accessories, the chased gold ornaments scattered about the hall, the grey-green table-cloth, the bunch of flowers in a niche above the table, and the parrot on the balustrade, add grateful touches of colour. The figures are perhaps the least satisfactory part of the performance. Steenwyck was often employed to fill in architectural back-grounds for other painters. In England, where he worked for some time, he performed this office for Van Dyck, and in Antwerp he frequently painted interiors to set off the portrait groups of Gonzales Coques, that ” Van Dyck in 18mo ” as he has been called.
Coques, a somewhat rare master, is remarkably well represented in the National Gallery and Hertford House. He started his career as pupil of one of the younger Pieter Brueghels, and then worked under David Ryckaert, nephew of Martin Ryckaert, the one-armed painter, who is represented here by a delicate little “Landscape with Satyrs” (1353). But it was Van Dyck whose style Coques finally determined to emulate, though on a reduced scale. This “small Van Dyck” is chiefly celebrated for the taste and refinement with which he portrays the fashionable families of Antwerp in their elegant surroundings of drawing – room or park, though he never attains to just that exquisite grace and dignity which charm us in Van Dyck. ” A Family Group” (821) in the Peel Room (XII.), though rather heavy in tone, is a good example of his style. This well-to-do couple and their train of little daughters, standing outside the ancestral mansion, suggest, perhaps, some-thing of the photographer’s stiffness of pose. They are indeed quite conscious of being critically surveyed by the painter, and seem endeavouring to look and act their best. All the minute details of the costumes are beautifully painted, the lace, the bows and the pearl necklaces. The children here, as in the pictures of Van Dyck, have the real charm of childhood. An unusually large-sized portrait-group in Hertford House (XVI., 92) shows again some stiffness of arrangement, the portly merchant and his comely, if not aristocratic wife, their débutante daughter and three younger children being disposed in one long row. Two smaller groups (XIV., 162, and XIII., 223), very delicate in finish, complete an unusually large gathering of Coques’s works.
In the National Gallery he is further represented by a set of five small portrait panels illustrative of the “Five Senses” (1114-1118), a favourite subject with Dutch and Flemish genre-painters. The man who figures as ” Sight,” holding in one hand a sketch and in the other a palette and brushes, has been identified as Van den Hoeck, an obscure painter of Antwerp. ” Hearing,” which is the best of the set, is personified by a man playing the guitar. A wounded arm suggests “Touch,” and for “Smell” and “Taste” the artist could devise nothing more original than a smoker lazily enjoying the fumes of a long clay pipe, and a young man sitting in front of a meal of wine and oysters. For pictures on so small a scale the treatment is extraordinarily broad and the drawing vigorous. A small portrait of a lady posed against an architectural background (1011) bears strong evidence of Van Dyck’s influence, and indeed is painted in the over-sweet, artificial style of Van Dyck’s follower, Sir Peter Lely. Many of the landscape backgrounds in Coques’s pictures were entrusted to Jaques d’Arthois, who is not represented here. By his pupil Cornelis Huysmans, however, there is a landscape (954) in Room X., very strong and rich in colour, the deep green trees being relieved against a sky and distance of vivid blue.
If Rubens and Van Dyck over-top the crowd of artists who emulated their example or pursued an independent course in Antwerp, the name of David Teniers the younger must be joined to theirs to complete the triad which represents all that is best and most characteristic of Flemish art in the seventeenth century. Teniers’s greatness was on a smaller scale than that of the others, but it was peculiarly his own. Like the early masters of the Flemish school, he chose a restricted area for the display of his genius, and attained an extraordinary gem-like finish. The genre subjects he delighted in were just those appropriated by the Dutch ” Little Masters,” his contemporaries ; but if at times he descends to the uproarious tavern revelry of Ostade or Brouwer, whom he consciously imitated, at others he is anxious to appear as the gentleman of quality, quietly surveying the sports of the peasantry or inspecting his landed domain. Teniers was some twenty-three years younger than Rubens and eleven years the junior of Van Dyck. He was fortunate in his parentage, for his father, whose name he continued, was a painter of repute, and the younger David owed much to his training. Old Teniers had studied in Rome under the celebrated Adam Elsheimer, and returning to Antwerp in 1606, took a good position in the artistic world shortly before Rubens’s arrival from Italy. No doubt the commerce between father and son was one of give and take, for the younger man possessed real genius and soon out-stripped his parent. Old Teniers devoted himself to scenes of country life, and usually the landscape element predominates. His pictures are heavier in tone than those of Teniers the younger, whose brush glided where his father’s trod, and bathed in silvery atmosphere the same scenes that the old man saw in brown. The confusion between their works is inevitable considering their close relationship and mutual influence. The monogram of a T within a D is not exclusive to either, but the younger Teniers generally preferred a longer signature, and seems to have given up the old family hall-mark in later life.
Three large landscapes with figures represent David Teniers the elder in Room XII. of the National Gallery. The ” Rocky Landscape ” (949) is the most ambitious and seems to tell of the painter’s acquaintance with Italian scenery. There is here something of the wild and fantastic, and the group of gipsies, one of whom is about to tell the fortune of a hulking peasant, adds to this impression. The figures, which are here mere accessories to the landscape, are very cleverly introduced in the’ foreground or wending their way round the shoulder of the mountain to the castle in the distance. The ” Conversation ” (950) and ” Playing at Bowls” (951) are prototypes of many a composition by the son, though here the dimensions are larger and the tone far heavier. The building, village inn or peasant’s cottage, on the left, beneath which the figures play their allotted parts, the sweep of country on the right, often separated from the distance by road or river, the touches of light blue, the sting of scarlet, the short-legged peasantsall these familiar elements are worked up again and again by father and son, with varying degrees of interest and charm. In the ” Playing at Bowls,” undoubtedly the best and least heavy of these two examples, the lighting suggests a lucid interval between the storm showers, when a few fitful gleams tempt the players to exchange the stuffy air inside the parlour of mine host of the “Crescent Moon” for the fresh outdoor breezes and the exercise of the game.
Other influences besides that of the elder Teniers assisted to form the son. That he should be affected by Rubens was only a matter of course, for he grew up from babyhood in the noise of that master’s achievement. Certain elements in his style, too, may be traced to the strong, if transitory influence exerted over him by that Flemish-Dutch scapegrace, Adrian Brouwer, who settled in Antwerp just when Teniers was about to qualify. With these examples and his own genius our painter set out well equipped. He soon quitted the heavy brown manner learned from his father, and developed that clear silvery harmony which distinguishes him from the Dutch genre-painters. He worked with an incredible swiftness, often gaining his effects by the slightest means. He himself commented on his productivity, remarking that it would require a gallery two leagues in length to contain his pictures. Teniers’s first successes begot, as usual, a goodly sequence of triumphs. For, like Rubens, he became for a time court-painter to the Archducal Governor of the Spanish Netherlands, and mixed to his heart’s content with grandees. His office included the directorship of the Archduke’s picture-gallery, which he often portrayed, and in these pictures, in Munich and Vienna, we may distinguish several famous canvases which afterwards found their way to the Austrian capital. Paintings of picture-galleries were indeed much in favour, and an example of this subject, formerly ascribed to Teniers’s father-in-law, Jan Brueghel (1287), hangs in Room XI.
Teniers is splendidly represented in England, for of the 700 pictures assigned to him in Smith’s Catalogue Raisonné, 150 belong to English private collections, and the National and Wallace Galleries number between them some twenty works. Beginning in Room X I I. we find ourselves in front of that wonderful achievement of his early period, the great ” Fête aux Chaudrons” (952). Here we have the wide landscape and spacious sky of his father’s pictures, but glancing from their heavy brown tones to this brilliant plein-air treatment, the likeness is swallowed up in the difference. On this gently rising ground the pious folk of Antwerp, to the number of 150, are assembled to make pilgrim-age to some shrine, and incidentally no doubt, to enjoy the open-air freedom of the Catholic holy-day. The towers of Antwerp are visible in the near distance. It is the hour of the midday meal, and the people, ranged in ordered rows, open their picnic-baskets and await the distribution of the soup, heating in great steaming brass cauldrons. An array of beer-barrels tempts the thirsty, and diversion is provided for the children by a vendor of little white flags. In the fore-ground Teniers and his party form a gay group. The painter wears his accustomed mantle of scarlet, and the ladies are arrayed in rich attirewhite satin robe, red petticoat under black velvet bodice, and plumed hat. The little boy leading a greyhound, the son of the house, we shall meet again in the Gallery. It is a scene of great animation and wonderful harmony. The cool, silvery sky, the grey-green of the landscape, are set off by the bright colours of the group in the foreground. The breezy freshness of the sky, across which some storks are wheeling, gives a glitter and sparkle to this picture, which certainly ranks among the painter’s masterpieces.
Of something the same style is the small panel on the opposite wall, entitled a “River Scene” (861), one of endless variations on the theme which Teniers the elder originated. Here are the usual cottage with figures in front of it on the left hand side, the broad river, and the great expanse of sky. The colour scheme is composed of the silvery grey and brown harmonies characteristic of the master, with the customary scarlet touch in the dress of the girl scouring pots and pans, and the grey-blue of the old man with the wheel-barrow, Teniers’s gardener. The willow-tree beside the inn is a feeble and perfunctory performance; indeed, trees were not the painter’s strong point. In the next Room (X.) hangs a third landscape scene (817), depicting this time the artist’s own stately pleasaunce at Perck. In the background rise the turrets of the high-gabled château, at the base of which curves the broad moat. A number of men wading in the water drag in a great fishing net, and the well-known blue-clad gardener proudly displays to the owner of the estate and his gay party a great fish that has just been taken. This bearded veteran might have posed in. a less secular artistic period for S. Peter in the scene of the Tribute Money. Teniers and his scarlet cloak, his attendant ladies, and the boy with the faithful greyhound, are familiar figures. The boy, however, has added a few cubits to his stature since he figured in the pilgrimage scene, which is dated 1643 ; this, therefore, must be a rather later work.
Close by we come to one of those brilliant interiors, for which we may believe that Teniers borrowed a leaf out of Brouwer’s book. This ” Players at Tric-trac or Backgammon ” (242) introduces us to one of the tavern scenes so beloved of the Dutch genre-painters, and treated by them with a gusto and abandon which often degenerate into licence. Teniers is more re-strained, less dramatic, and seems to regard the peasant with the aloofness of the grand seigneur rather than the fellow-feeling of the boon companion. His scheme of colour is peculiarly his owna tender, silvery harmony of luminous greys, greens and browns and a delicious cool blue, with the favourite dash of scarlet as a brilliant contrast. Here the interest is focussed on to the group of four men gathered about a table covered with a warm green cloth. This beautiful green is repeated in the stockings of the young player on the left, who is evidently a man of more consideration than the rugged peasants who eagerly await his move. The old man on the right, with feather in hat, and clay pipe stuck into his belt, supplies the note of translucent blue ; the scarlet cap worn by his neighbour, the yellow sleeves and warm browns of the younger man’s costume, constitute a brilliant colour scheme. In the background the usual group of peasants cluster round the smoking fire, sleeping or puffing at their pipes. We may detect in their coarse faces the type peculiar to Brouwer, but without Brouwer’s characteristic grimaces. Less warm and brilliant, but wonderfully clear, are two little tavern scenes at the end of the rooma ” Music Party ” (154), where the face of the old man playing the guitar verges on caricature ; and “Boers regaling” (158), in which the composition is the same, though the figures have been re-shuffled.
An ” Old Woman peeling a Pear ” (805), in the same room, is again a picture of great harmony and delicate finish. The setting is one of those cellar-like kitchens, with great stone oven, churn and litter of pots and pans, which we find again in the ” Surprise ” (862). The left foreground, where, grim and upright, sits the weather-beaten old lady, is brilliantly illuminated. The clear blue of her apron, the strongest local colour in the picture, is repeated in the cloak hanging from a beam above. The usual touch of scarlet is missing here. Very fine is the group of still-life, the gleaming brass cauldron, the brown earthen pots, the white towel, and bottle stopped with a rag of paper. The pears, however, are absurdly cold and unnatural, as though modelled in wax, and the cauliflowers show a hard blue-green. An open door at the back of the kitchen lets in a subdued flood of light, which dimly illuminates the dank, chilly interior. The “Surprise” (862), in Room XII., shows the same composition, but with less precision and harmony, and the still-life is rather perfunctory. Here the light is concentrated on the figure of the servant girl, who is receiving the addresses of her old master. We have already met this girl in her white and scarlet dress in the ” River Scene” on this wall (861), and indeed Teniers kept a stock set of motifs, figures and settings, and worked them into a vast variety of combinations. Sometimes indeed, especially in his later works, it becomes evident that he has consulted his sketch-book rather than nature at first hand.
Another class of subject, in which Teniers seems to emulate his kinsman, Hell Brueghel, is represented in this room by the ” Dives ” or ” Mauvais Riche” (863), a weird, fantastic scene, purporting to display the nether regions with their fearsome inhabitants, half human, half bestial, into whose clutches the richly-clad old sinner has been delivered. The chiaroscuro effect is very telling, part of the dark cavern being brilliantly lighted up by the flare of a furnace into which a horrid bat-winged devil is about to drag his victim. It is all like a hideous, uncanny nightmare, from which, however, there will be no awakening for the shrinking miser.
The “Four Seasons” (857-860) are personified by small figures engaged in some action characteristic of the various times of year. “Spring” is represented by a man carrying an orange-tree in a pot, while in the background two men are engaged in laying out one of those formal Dutch gardens, exemplified in a large picture here by an unknown Flemish painter (1017). For “Summer” a peasant holds a shock of corn in a delicate little harvest landscape. A burly inn-keeper proclaims the joys of “Autumn” with a brimming glass ; while ” Winter ” displays a hunched up figure of an old man crouched over a brazier, set against a sky charged with snow. These four little pictures are painted on copper with great care and delicacy. They are signed with the T within a D, and seem to be early works of the artist’s silvery period. To the same class belongs the ” Toper ” (953) a: stumpy fellow, glass in hand, against a background of sky. The “Money-Changers” in Room IX. (155), a dark, heavy piece, very solidly painted, shows figures of an unusual size, and repeats, in more modern style, the subjects which Quentin Matsys and his – followers invented.
Teniers is also splendidly represented in Hertford House by a number of characteristic panels. The Tavern scene known as ” La Chemise Blanche” (XIII., 227), from the brilliant white shirt which sets the key to the whole painting, is as perfect an example of his art as can be found. The “Deliverance of S. Peter” (XIII., 210), also a brilliant essay in colouring, has for object the representation of a guard-room, with the ostensible subject tucked away in a corner, and seemingly merely introduced to satisfy some reactionary patron.
Teniers founded no school, and had no successor in Flanders. François Duchatel, who outlived him by four years, is believed to have been his pupil, but his works are scarce. A vigorous, but rather empty ” Portrait of a Boy ” (1810) from his hand, in Room X., proves him but a mediocre and uninspired artist. Ghent possesses his most important picture. Duchatel is connected, too, with Van der Meulen, under whom he studied for a time. A “Hunting Party” (1447), in Room XI., represents the style of this painter, who attached himself to Louis XIV., and portrayed in somewhat theatrical manner that monarch’s military and hunting escapades. In the scene here, the King, in his lumbering coach, drawn by six rather wooden horses, drives in company of his retinue to the chase. The breezy landscape is broadly brushed in ; clouds scud across the blue sky, and the trees wave in the fresh morning air. The fleeting lights and shadows of a fine, windy day are well expressed.
But by the end of the century the last of the painters who had made Flemish art illustrious had passed away, and no new genius appeared to add links to the chain begun by the van Eycks and continued in practically unbroken succession for three centuries. This cycle of art closed, and years elapsed before modern Belgian painting made a new start, under changed conditions.