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P. Hoogt. — Inside of a room, with a woman and child. Its companion, a woman sweeping.
The account which has now been given of the Dutch pictures is, I confess, more barren of entertainment, than I expected. One would wish to be able to convey to the reader some idea of that excellence, the sight of which has afforded so much pleasure ; but as their merit often consists in the truth of representation alone, whatever praise they deserve, whatever pleasure they give when under the eye, they make but a poor figure in description. It is to the eye only that the works of this school are addressed; it is not therefore to be wondered at, that what was intended solely for; the gratification of one sense, succeeds but ill, when applied to another.
A market-woman with a hare in her hand, a man blowing a trumpet, or a boy blowing bubbles, a view of the inside or outside of a church, are the subjects of some of their most valuable pictures; but there is still entertainment, even in such pictures; however uninteresting their subjects, there is some pleasure in the contemplation of the truth of the imitation. But to a painter they afford likewise instruction in his profession ; here he may learn the art of colouring and composition, a skilful management of light and shade, and indeed all the mechanical parts of the art, as well as in any other school whatever. The same skill which is practised by Rubens and Titian in their large works, is here exhibited, though on a smaller scale. Painters should go to the Dutch school to learn the art of painting, as they would go to a grammar school to learn
languages. They must go to Italy to learn the higher branches of knowledge.
We must be contented to make up our idea of perfection from the excellences which are dispersed over the world. A poetical imagination, expression, character, or even correctness of drawing, are seldom united with that power of colouring, which would set off those excellences to the best advantage; and in this, perhaps, no school ever excelled the Dutch. An artist, by a close examination of their works, may in a few hours make himself master of the principles on which they wrought, which cost them whole ages, and perhaps the experience of a succession of ages, to ascertain.
The most considerable of the Dutch school are, Rembrandt, Teniers, Jan Steen, Ostade, Brouwer, Gerard Dow, Mieris, Metzu, and Terburg; these excel in small conversations. For landscapes and cattle, Wouvermans, P. Potter, Berchem, and Ruysdaal; and for buildings, Vanderheyden. For sea views, W. Vandervelde, jun. and Backhuysen. Weeninx and Hondekoeter. For flowers, De Heem, Vanhuysum, Rachael Roos, and Brueghel. These make the bulk of the Dutch school.
I consider those painters as belonging to this school, who painted only small conversations, landscapes, &c.
Though some of those were born in Flanders, their works are principally found in Holland ; and to separate them from the Flemish school, which generally painted figures large as life, it appears to me more reasonable to class them with the Dutch painters, and to distinguish those two schools rather by their style and manner, than by the place where the artist happened to be born.
For dead game,
Rembrandt may be considered as belonging to both or either, as he painted both large and small pictures.
The works of David Teniers, jun. are worthy the closest attention of a painter, who desires to excel in the mechanical knowledge of his art.
His manner of touching, or what we call handling, has perhaps never been equalled; there is in his pictures that exact mixture of softness and sharpness, which is difficult to execute.
Jan Steen has a strong manly style of painting, which might become even the design of Raffaelle, and he has shown the greatest skill in composition, and management of light and shadow, as well as great truth in the expression and character of his figures.
The landscapes of Ruysdaal have not only great force, but have a freshness which is seen in scarce any other painter.
What excellence in colouring and handling is to be found in the dead game of Weeninx.
A clearness and brilliancy of colouring may be learned by examining the flower pieces of De Heem, Huysum, and Mignon ; and a short time employed in painting flowers would make no improper part of a painter's study. Rubens's pictures strongly remind one of a nosegay of flowers, where all the colours are bright, clear, and transparent.
I have only to add, that in this account of the Dutch pictures, which is indeed little more than a catalogue, I have mentioned only those which I considered worthy of attention. It is not to be supposed that those are the whole of the Cabinets described; perhaps in a collection of near a hundred pictures, not ten are set down : their being mentioned at all, therefore, though no epithet may be added, implies excellence.
I have been more particular in the account of Mr.
Hope's Cabinet, not only because it is acknowledged to be the first in Amsterdam, but because I had an opportunity (by the particular attention and civility of its possessors) of seeing it oftener, and considering it more at my leisure, than any other collection.
This gallery is under the care of Mr. Lambert Kraye, who likewise is the director of the Academy.
The easy access which you have to this collection of pictures, seeing it as often, and staying in it as long as you please, without appearing to incommode any body, cannot but be very pleasing to strangers, and very advantageous to the students in painting, who seem to have the same indulgence ; for we found many copying in the gallery, and others in a large room above stairs, which is allotted for that purpose. I could not help expressing to Mr. Kraye the pleasure I felt, not only at the great conveniency with which I saw the gallery, but likewise at the great indulgence granted to the students. He said it was the Elector's wish to afford the most perfect accommodation to those who visit the collection : but in regard to the students, he took some credit to himself in procuring for them that advantage. When he first asked the Elector's leave for students to copy the pictures in the gallery, the Prince refused; and the reason he assigned was, that those copies afterwards would be sold for originals, and thus, by multiplying, depreciate the value of the collection. Mr. Kraye answered, that those who could make such copies were not persons who spent their time in copying at all, but made originals of their own invention; that the young students were not
likely to make such copies as would pass for originals with any but the ignorant; and that the mistakes of the ignorant were not worth attention: he added, that as his Highness wished to produce artists in his own country, the refusing such advantages to young students would be as unwise as if a patron of learning, who wished to produce scholars, should refuse them the use of a library. The Elector acquiesced, and desired him to do whatever he thought would contribute to advance the art.
First Room. JORDAENS.- The first picture which strikes the eye on entering the gallery, is a Merry-making of Jordaens, which is by far the best picture I ever saw of his hand. There is a glow of colours throughout, and vast force ; every head and every part perfectly well drawn : vulgar, tumultuous merriment was never better expressed; and for colouring and strength, few pictures of Rubens are superior. There is a little grey
about the women's dress; the rest are all warm colours, and
VANDYCK.—Four whole-length pictures by Vandyck, all dressed in black; three men and one woman. They are all fine portraits, in his high-finished manner.
Christ with a cross, receiving the four penitents, Mary Magdalen, Peter, David, and the penitent thief. This picture does no great honour to Vandyck; the head of the Magdalen is badly drawn, and David is but a poor character : he looks as much like a thief, as the thief here represented: the naked arm of Christ is badly drawn; the outline quick and short, not flowing: the only excellence which this picture posesses is the general effect, proceeding from the harmony of colouring.