Century Magazine/Volume 56/Issue 3/Modern Dutch Painters
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Volume 56, Issue 3 (July, 1888) Modern Dutch Painters
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Holland has been the etchers' country from the time of Rembrandt, Vandyke, and Cornelis Visscher to the present; but it is also preëminently the colorists' country.
Its amber canals reflect and tone the landscape like a Claude Lorrain glass, or the mellow varnish on a Hobbema. The interiors of the peasants' houses are dark and rich and colorful. In lighter keys, but still subdued, as though a restraining hand held the artist back from vulgar riot in color, and opened his vision to the subtler refinements of soft, diffused light, there are the clouded skies of the Northern sea-coast, the fogs which drift inland, the silvery green of the moist meadows — nature in her more pensive and poetic moods.
The Dutchman is not a poseur, evolving his color-scheme from preconceived ideas, and affectedly following a receipt for clever facture. He has always been an earnest student of nature — the nature about him, which is very different from the highly keyed nature under more brilliant skies, as Fromentin discovered when he wrote from Scheveningen:
"The grass here is sear, the dunes pale, the beach colorless, the sea milky, the sky cloudy, but wonderfully aërial. Red is the only color which asserts itself in this subdued gamut, the tonality of which remains so grave."
Certain lessons the old Dutch masters learned on these sketching-grounds: first, to draw perfectly; and, later, the secret of values.
"I do not know," continues Fromentin, "what was the opinion of Pietre de Hooghe, of Terburg, or of Metzu concerning values, if even they had a name to express that subtilty in relation; all the same, the life of their works, the beauty of them all, depends on the knowing employment of this principle. Their delicacy and mystery came from air around the objects, shadows around the lights, transposition of tones, the most marvelous employment that has ever been made of clair-obscur — the art of rendering atmosphere visible."
This heritage the modern school of Holland received from their fathers. The French had it also from theirs; but it has been the glory of the Dutch painters that they have preserved the old traditions, while the French think that they are more artistic because they have abandoned them in daring exploration and innovations.
With their skilful use of drawing and values the Dutch have preserved their pre-eminence as tonalists, and have added to these painter qualities a certain sentiment which gives their works a charm both to the connoisseur and to every person of feeling.
The prime movers in this modern school are well known to us in America through their works. A half-dozen of the more prominent men were introduced to the readers of The Century Magazine in March, 1889, by Mrs. Harry Chase, in her admirable article "Dutch Painters at Home." While these masters still hold their own, and cannot be passed over in any article on contemporary art in Holland, there have arisen a number of younger men worthy to be ranked with those who have already won fame, and of whom we are certain to hear and see more in the early years of the coming century.
Some of these, as Isaac Israels, ten Cate, Bosch Reiz, and others, have studied in Paris, and have interested themselves in the problems attacked by the modern Frenchman; others, as De Zwart, Offermans, De Bock, and indeed the majority of the coming men, while distinctly original, belong virtually to the Dutch school as we know it, either in color tone or in subject. Still, among all this procession of the men of tomorrow there are no direct pupils or imitators of their elders, and some are seeking new and adventurous paths. Some, like Veth, are doubtless inspired by Dürer and other old German masters; others, as Toorop, by Buddhist theogonies, or by Javanese and Hindu art. Bauer has been impressed by travel in the Orient, Der Kinderen by medieval decorative painting, others by the symbolists, the idealists, the impressionists, or the mystics; but all are deeply earnest, striving honestly and ably to express themselves, and deserve to be heard, and will be heard in the near future.
The Hague is the artistic center of Holland. Amsterdam, with her great gallery, her many talented artists, and her colony at Laren, is a close rival; but The Hague, as the seat of government and the residence of the aristocracy, is perhaps the better patron of art, while its academy attracts the student.
Of the artists residing at The Hague who have made their reputation, who have already "arrived," as the French express it, no one is better known to us than Josef Israels. He is by preference the painter of poverty, and of that kind of poverty which sets its seal of deformity upon body and soul, which cramps the brain, coarsens the face, and frenzies the eye, or leaves it in lusterless despair. He is a tragedian who never goes beyond nature, but shows us her glooms and sterner phases with a realism touched with pathos — the Tolstoi of the painter's art.
"My pictures are too black and sad?" he asked half apologetically. "I must change my style and be more cheerful? No; I am afraid I am too old for that; and I have the happiness to have some friends who like them, though there are others, like myself, who are not satisfied."
So modestly and simply spoke the most celebrated of living Dutch painters, as we stood in his studio before one of his interiors, an unfinished painting showing a boy rocking his baby sister in a primitive, swing-like cradle.
Israels is a cheery little man, cordial and vivacious in manner, with nothing in his personal appearance to suggest the deep seriousness of his paintings. There is something very charming in his perfect freedom from affectation or arrogance. It is as though the world's praises had blown by his closed door, and he was quite unaware of them. He was genuinely pleased with the recognition which his masterly "Alone in the World" received in Chicago, a picture owned and sent by his contemporary and friend, the artist Mesdag. He laid aside his work with the most kindly courtesy, and entertained us for an hour, turning over portfolios of drawings, showing us a photograph of the painting which he had just sent to Vienna — a market-woman trudging beside her dog-cart, recalling to mind Ouida's story, "A Dog of Flanders." He took us to a room filled with etchings from his paintings, showed us his wardrobe of costumes, his glass studio for the painting of outdoor effects in winter, and a long corridor hung with studies.
The gaunt figures of his "Fisherwomen of Zandvoort" stood in a shadowy corner of his studio. There was something so determined in their stride, so doom-foreboding in their set faces, that one felt them akin to those women of the halles who brought Marie-Antoinette from Versailles to the fate which awaited her in the city.
Israels's studio is simple in its appointments — a true atelier, or workshop. The show studio of The Hague, famous the world over for its luxurious accessories, is that of H. W. Mesdag, the foremost of Dutch marine painters, and perhaps of all living artists who make a specialty of the changing aspects of the sea.
Though of an artistic family many of whom are well-known painters, Mesdag had reached the age of thirty before he decided to become an artist. His gifted cousin, Alma Tadema, whose long residence in London causes him to be classed among the English painters rather than with his Dutch compatriots, was already famous when Mesdag first thought of devoting himself to art.
"Paint nature as you see it," he said to Mesdag, "and we shall then see whether you are an artist or not."
Mesdag painted; and Tadema and the world at once recognized that here was a man endowed with both the perception and the executive ability of an artist. His glorious, stormy skies, wonderful expositions of cloudy gloom or splendor, seem to have been brushed in by some Magian prince of the power of the air who has used a magic flying-carpet as his studio.
He has made himself familiar, also, with every phase of that most fickle of elements, water, and has painted it with virility and vitality, keen observation, and greatness of imagination, in all its changing moods of turbulence and beauty. He knows every sail at Scheveningen, and which fisherman's boat bears canvas most resplendent with patches of dark red and warm ocher. He is in sympathy with the rough lives of the fisherfolk, and has shown us their hours of peril and toil, of weary waiting and anguish, as well as the joy that comes when skies are fair and the catch is abundant. He loves to paint the returning fleet as the keels grate on the sand and the boats are surrounded by groups of laughing, buxom, bare-legged fisher-wives, some hurrying shoreward with their baskets, and others wading out into the sandy surf for their share of the spoils. A magnificent picture, which he calls "In Danger," stood upon his easel. A heavily laden sloop is approaching a dangerous coast. The shallowness of the water is told by its turbid color, and the surf pounds heavily over the almost sinking vessel, which drifts at the mercy of its vehement onward rush and its treacherous undertow. He has painted a panorama of Scheveningen, which is on exhibition at The Hague, and is a most clever bit of realistic painting, as well as far more artistic than the generality of works of this order. A long gallery hung with paintings by him and Mrs. Mesdag admits to the panorama, and doubles its interest.
Mrs. Mesdag has a reputation for her flower-paintings and her magnificent still-life pictures, showing great Japanese vases of cloisonné, jade, or carved ivory, of which she has a costly collection, several rooms being filled with the objets d'art which have served as accessories in her pictures. Of late she has turned her attention to landscape with figures. She sent to the Antwerp Exposition an important canvas, "Sheepfolds in Gueldres at Nightfall." Mrs. Mesdag is a notable housewife as well as a talented artist. Never was home more beautifully kept, its treasures of art and bric-à-brac being immaculate and in perfect order. Nearly all successful artists are picture-buyers, but few have so ample a fortune to devote to such acquisitions as Mesdag. His collection is famous, and comprises a large number of celebrated and valuable works by modern masters, chiefly of the French school. It is a painter's collection, each picture purchased, not because the artist was in the mode or the painting a sure investment, but because its buyer loved it; and the gallery is therefore an exponent of Mesdag's personal art sympathies, a coherent and harmonious collection.
Popular applause and pecuniary success are never so dear to the artist as the esteem of his peers. To be given distinguished rank by those of his contemporaries whose opinion he respects is the sweetest reward which he can receive.
Jacob Maris tastes this fruition, and wears in middle life the laurels unanimously voted him by his brother artists. He enjoys the reputation among his fellows of being the foremost living landscapist in Holland. A serene and benignant contentment radiates from his dignified presence. "He looks successful," as a man should when his lines have fallen in pleasant places.
He is chiefly known for his harbor views — cities approached by winding waterways studded with forests of masts, traversed by heavy Dutch craft, and reflecting luminous skies. The domes and towers blend and fade in the blue distance, or catch golden glints and tremulous lights reflected in the sapphire water by long, waving lines of brightness.
One stands puzzled, at first, before these enchanted landscapes. They are so familiar that we feel we ought to recognize the locality. That harbor is certainly Dordrecht; but what gilded dome is that which dominates the scene and gives the unifying touch, the key-note, to the entire composition? This calm stretch of hazy moorland, across which the hyacinthine mists drift, is unmistakably Dutch; but that windmill is Belgian in its shape. We are charmed, but at the same time puzzled until we understand that Jacob Maris is not a realist; that it is many years since he has made a sketch from nature; that he seeks only to secure a harmonious composition, a symphony in color and line, and depends for his details upon his wonderful memory and imagination. His pictures are essentially Holland, but a Holland that one recognizes everywhere and nowhere. He constructs, demolishes, and reconstructs until he has created a landscape of his own that recalls the old, picturesque Holland which is so rapidly disappearing.
We watched him painting. How admirably his personality agreed with his temper of mind — a man of breadth physically and mentally, with iron-gray waving hair falling away from a calm, meditative face! He painted slowly, musingly, trying touches here and there, tasting his tints as an epicure tastes delicacies. "A chercheur," a companion called him. Each picture is to him a new problem of light, of color, of subject, from which is to be evolved an exquisite harmony. He is an idealist, a romancer with landscape. His pictures are not nature pure and simple, but nature viewed through his temperament. He transposes tones to a lower gamut, always preserving an impression of light either present or about to burst forth. The mists are light and shifting; dawn is just going to break; another moment, and the sky will be flooded with splendor; and meantime there is a sensation of happy anticipation which is most inspiriting. He is a hard worker, but one understands that work with him is luxury. There is no feverish haste, no worry, no drudgery, or weariness, but tranquil enjoyment from which he finds it difficult to tear himself away. With all his personal achievement, he is not a self-centered or a selfish man. His sympathies go out readily to his brother artists, and especially to younger aspirants. He is the teacher par excellence, and many of the younger painters have acquired their insight through him.
Jacob Maris is the eldest of three brothers, each of whom has acquired distinction in art, but in widely differing styles. Matthew Maris is established in London, and is a painter of figures. He is a modern of the moderns, has great technical power, and is endowed by nature with exquisite sensibility. His palette is a very delicate one, ranging through the tender and pearly tones of gray, silver, and white, so that his pictures are pale and ghostly almost to affectation. Poetic and mystical, he is greatly admired by a few, and considered eccentric and incomprehensible by the majority.
William Maris, the youngest of these talented brothers, resides at The Hague, and makes a specialty of painting cattle and ducks. It has been said of him by an eminent art critic that no Dutch painter so well knows how to depict the life of an animal. There is a refreshing sensation in viewing one of his pictures, his skies are so clear, his foliage is so fresh and luxuriant. His ducks and ducklings are altogether charming. The canals on which they float are limpid, the water-cresses succulent, the reeds and rushes graceful. The lush foliage bends over the water, and dimples it with shadowy passages which contrast with the clear reflections; while the downy brood disport themselves with all the exuberance of youthful duckhood, scattering silvery splashes and sparkles of light until the desire to possess each of these charming canvases almost leads one to "make ducks and drakes" of one's fortune.
Two of the older landscapists, who have labored earnestly for years, producing excellent work, but not so well known as it deserves to be, and who have disquieted themselves very little on this account, are Jan Weissenbruch and P. J. C. Gabriel. We found the former in his unpretending studio at the back of a quaint little court which reminds one of Pieter de Hooch. He was literally buried by his studies and sketches. He would not call them pictures, for he finishes very slowly, and loves to keep his canvases on the easel for years, caressing them, adding tone and mellowness, but never quite sure that he cannot still further improve them. His watercolors are in gouache, juicy and strong. The pools and puddles are very wet; the skies have wonderful clouds, full of light or delicately veiled.
Gabriel lives in a modest house near the suburbs. The walls of his studio and of an adjoining room, with the hall and the staircase, are covered with studies of landscapes — amber canals; old windmills of the Belgian type, set up on stilts, silhouetted against glowing sunsets; wide, dark fields threaded by lines of fire, where the water catches the sunset reflections; or morning skies, with turtledove clouds glinted with mother-of-pearl. Gabriel is a dreamer. Deafness shuts him away from much social intercourse; but with the barring of one gateway to the soul, that of vision seems to have been opened wider. He has a genius for finding compositions, and discovers a picture in every scene.
It is only a short distance from Gabriel's home to B. J. Blommers's — the" Villa Joane." Blommers is one of the most successful of the Dutch genre-painters. His studio is unusually large, and is filled with such objects as will help him with his work. Costumes are tossed about on the old furniture in true artistic disorder. One sees that Blommers is master in his own studio; for the dust is undisturbed by the housemaid, and the spider spins on the pane. One end of his studio is constructed to represent the interior of a peasant's cabin. There is a small shuttered window which dimly lights the model, while the artist paints in stronger light. There is a rough fireplace where a fire can be lighted, a cupboard-like alcove bed, a shelf of pewter and old delft, a quaint cradle, and other bits of peasant furniture.
"I find my pictures," he explains, "in the real homes of the peasants. I make sketches for them there, then arrange my models here, where I can paint more at my ease."
When we interrupted him he was engaged on a painting which was full of feeling. A sick mother was seen on the poor bed in the background of the picture; but the attention was attracted more particularly to a group at the table in the foreground, the father clumsily feeding his little children, and hushing them lest they should disturb their mother. Blommers's paintings nearly always depict some phase of family affection; the poverty which he paints is lightened by it, and is never unbearable. He finds sunshine where Israels shows us gloom.
Neighbors of Mr. Blommers, in the same lovely Van Stolk Park, are Mr. and Mrs. C. Bisschop, both noted portrait- and figure-painters. There are few houses in the world so richly fitted with beautiful antique furniture and objects of art. No pieces of modern furniture obtrude themselves in the midst of the medieval treasures. It was as though the house had been preserved by magic, completely furnished, from the time of the Renaissance. Mr. Bisschop is descended from an old Friesian family, and a portrait of his mother, by himself, shows a gentlewoman of distinguished appearance in the national dress. Under the soft lace cap glitter jewels and a solid gold head-piece, the costliness of the coiffure distinguishing it from that worn by the peasants. Mr. Bisschop has had the honor of painting many of the Dutch royal family. His portrait of Queen Wilhelmina in the dress of Amalia van Solms is now in the possession of the Queen Regent, whose portrait he painted for the town hall of Leeuwarden. For the late Queen Sophie Mr. Bisschop painted a portrait of Motley; the historian, which is one of the attractions of the "House in the 'Wood," as the royal palace in the forest park, or Bosch, of The Hague is called. From the two studios, rich with treasures of paintings and carvings, with glints of porcelain and reflections from polished bits of copper lighting up the darkness of old tapestries, we passed through other fascinating rooms, catching glimpses, as we went, of beautiful and costly effects, many of them the gifts of royalty. Among these was a magnificent Venetian mirror in carved frame, a Christmas present from her Majesty the Queen of Roumania, a valuable work of art, and most interesting because designed by Carmen Sylva for Mrs. Bisschop. One of the most attractive paintings in the house is a remarkable portrait of Mrs. Bisschop by her husband, from which one understands why this painter is such a favorite with noble ladies, since he knows so well how to render all that we understand in the word lady — distinction, refinement, courtly grace, and a personal gentleness and sweetness which make the beholder fancy that the lady in the frame has almost bowed, and has certainly smiled, upon him.
The studio of Mr. W. Roelofs was the last belonging to the coterie of the elder men which we visited at The Hague. His canvases take one away to the pasture-lands, with the good Holland cattle standing knee-deep in the grass. His work is too well known and liked among us to need description, while the presence in his studio of his two sons, both promising artists, successful in the same line as their father, and in rich pieces of still life, calls us to a consideration of the work of the younger men.
Of these the most familiar name in our own country is that of Philip Zilcken. Born in 1857, he is a far younger man than his wide reputation would suggest. Etcher by preëminence (he has published over three hundred and fifty plates), he is also a master of color, having received medals in Paris, Berlin, and other cities, and an art critic of catholic judgment and finished literary style. He has always painted, etched, and written interchangeably. The eminent art critic Félix Buchot wrote of his etching "A View of Amsterdam," after a painting of Maris: "This magnificent piece demonstrates how necessary it is that a painter-etcher, and even a simple etcher, should pass through painting, through the mastery of the brush, before attempting the point. The painter himself could never have translated with more of assurance and liberty, with larger or more adequate manner, the brush-work. This beautiful eau forte is a specimen of what the modern interpretation of a modern painter by the point ought to be."
To visit Zilcken's studio we drove through the Bosch, past the "House in the Wood," which the Queen placed at Motley's disposition during his visit to Holland, and, skirting a little canal reflecting the mossy trunks of the old trees, we came, while still in the quiet of the forest, to "Hélène Villa."
Here we found a slight, scholarly-appearing man busied in a most interesting studio. He laid aside his occupations with cheery courtesy, and rapidly fluttered over his portfolios, giving us fleeting glimpses of exquisite original drawings, and showing us the magnificent reproductive etchings which he was the first to make from the works of the modern Dutch painters. Over these he flashed into enthusiasm, not for his own remarkable achievement, but in generous and affectionate appreciation of his fellows. He has dwelt so caressingly over their work, as he translated it into another medium, that he has come to understand it better, perhaps, than any other living man. Developed in this way, his faculty for appreciation, which demands a connoisseurship far higher than that of criticism, has gone out not only to the paintings of the acknowledged great men, but also to the men with futures, and especially the etchers, whom a meaner nature might have regarded, in some sort, as rivals. Several of these we should not have known but for his kindness.
Artistic ability is frequently inherited, but it as frequently takes a new turn, a different form of expression from that of the father. Perhaps the most talented of the sons of living Dutch painters is Isaac Israels. He began his artistic career by painting military subjects in a most careful and finished manner, but has lately evolved an impressionism of his own in the life of the streets. He draws the façades of the shops and houses with care, then rapidly sketches in the moving figures, giving no more time to the drawing of each than it remains before the eye. When reproached for the apparent carelessness with which he treats his figures, reversing the method of the older painters of street-scenes, who considered the figures as the picture, and the details of the street as mere accessories in the background, to be slurred over in order to give greater importance to the human interest, Isaac Israels defended his position by maintaining that the houses remain, and create a far more definite impression upon the eye than the passing, hurrying crowd, every face of which is immediately replaced by another, and its memory mingled, blurred, or effaced.
While his drawings at first provoke wonder, they do give the feeling of movement, of agitation, of transitoriness which he wishes to convey, and young Israels may be credited as being, so far, a discoverer. He is wealthy, and does not paint for the market; but it is a pity that these remarkable drawings cannot be seen in America, where they would certainly produce, a sensation.
Among these artists of the twentieth century M. Bauer has already made his mark as an etcher. He is only twenty-seven, but his brilliant etchings of Oriental subjects, one hundred and fifty in number, have achieved reputation in Paris. He has been to the East three times, twice to Constantinople, and this spring to Cairo. He studied only at the Academy at The Hague, but, like Fortuny and Regnault, his imagination had been saturated from childhood by the "Tales of the Thousand and One Nights." He read these stories until he knew them by heart and dreamed of them at night. In the gray, chill fogs of the Netherlands he pictured to himself the dazzling light and splendor of Oriental skies; and when he saw the Orient for the first time it was as familiar as if he had lived there in some previous incarnation. His color-work, especially in pastel, is soft and delicate; but it is in black and white that he has produced his most remarkable effects. His series of ten lithographs after Gustave Flaubert, illustrating the legend of St. Julian, show a masterly use of rich, velvety blacks.
Pastel is admirably handled by the Dutch, and by none more delightfully than by Therese Schwartze. Her portraits have wonderful tone, which envelops the subject with a deep, harmonious color supposed to be the attribute of oil-painting. She treats her heads in a broad, masterly manner, and invests them with dignity and refinement. We have nowhere seen a pastel portrait more absolutely satisfying than one of the artist's mother. Her large painting, a reproduction of which is shown on the opposite page, is a masterpiece.
Jan Veth is a painter of portraits who gives much more pains to the delineation of the character of his sitter than to the display of his own virtuosity, though his style is one of great distinction. He obtained general recognition from his treatment of lithographic portraits of the celebrated men of Holland for a prominent journal, and from his admirable etchings.
Of all the etchers among the younger men, Witsen is possibly the cleverest technician, and one of the most artistic in feeling. As yet he is scarcely known in America; but such connoisseurs as Mr. S. P. Avery collect with delight his studies of such simple subjects as a man spading, his sketches of canal-boats, horses, or landscapes, and look eagerly for new plates from his hand, recognizing an original talent devoted to an earnest interpretation of a new view of the truths of nature.
Another student of character is H. J. Haverman, a young figure-painter, who, working at first in an academical, conventional manner, has latterly entirely changed his style, seeking the type and individuality in his portraits, paintings, and drawings. In method he is a modern, enamoured equally of art and human nature.
Tony Offermans is a figure-painter of the accepted Dutch school, and is by choice the apostle of the laboring class. He depicts the life of the workingman and the artisan. The carpenter, the blacksmith, the maker of sabots, the farm-laborer, the ice-sweeper of the skating-fields, were all represented on the canvases which happened to be in his studio. It was a mute socialistic convention, each face with its story of stolid endurance of a life of grinding toil.
The younger men are as successful in landscape as in figures. De Zwart is a landscapist of great talent and conscientiousness, rarely satisfied with himself, intensely serious, a hard worker, with a strong, rich palette, recalling that of Daubigny, without sacrificing his own originality. Seen in an exhibition of other Dutch pictures, his sound something of a trumpet-note, they are so daring, original, and strong. He has been frequently medaled at expositions, but his works are as yet hardly known on our side of the water, where they are certain to advance in value as the years go by.Theophile de Bock. He cares much for composition, the mise en page, or proportions of his picture in the frame, and he gives great study to its masses o dark and light. We stood long before a painting of his in the Antwerp Exhibition, struck by the handling of the lights. The full moon and the starlight glinted the distant surf, while the foreground was illuminated by a ruddy glow from the windows of the huts. He has a sentiment of space and an appreciation of the whole. His drawings are elegant, synthetical, sure of touch, carefully thought out, and most cleverly executed.
Mr. S. J. ten Cate, who has a studio in Paris, shows the French influence; but it is not fair to deprive his fatherland of the honor of having produced his genius, though it has been trained in the Gallic capital. His street-scenes are full of light and movement, and are treated with daintiness, delicacy of touch, charm of color, and grace of style entirely unmixed with any sophistication, pose, or artificiality. The charm comes simply from his own fine nature, which makes it possible for him to discover latent refinement where it would escape a coarser man. We found his studio filled with delightful studies, made in pastel and in gouache, of river views in France and England, soft, gray idyls of dawn and twilight. Unaffected in manner, and with an entire absence of conceit as agreeable as rare in youthful genius, he had no idea that his work was admired in America, and had seen none of the praise that was so liberally bestowed upon his contributions to our World's Fair, "The Harbor of Havre at Night" and his studies on the Thames.
In studying the Dutch exhibit at Chicago, the observer could not fail to remark the scarcity of flower-pieces, and this from a country which introduced tulips, hyacinths, and poppies into Europe, and the gorgeous fields of which, an eminent critic has said, might have been expected to create a school of flamboyant colorists. Kamerlingh Onnes, a young artist of Leyden, brought up among the pastures of its great botanical garden, and near the tulip-fields of Haarlem, may be said to be intoxicated with color, He is a pyro-technist in flowers, and pushes originality to experiment and eccentricity. He loves to treat them with novel effects of light, and he gives his paintings odd titles which smack a trifle of affectation. Now a group of rich-colored roses, arranged in front of a lighted lamp so that their petals seem incandescent, is introduced to us as "Ecstasy"; and again, blush-roses, flushed by the reflection of a red curtain, are entitled "The Bride's Kiss." "Between Two Lights" shows flowers illumined from behind by artificial light, with sunshine falling upon them from the front. He is always an accomplished technician who loves to play with new problems.
The limits of this article will not allow us to do justice to the Amsterdam artists: to Karsen, noted for his views of that city, and for bits of villages, executed in a most expressive manner in delicate tones; to Breitner, the Detaille of the army of Holland, whose "Coup de Canon," shown at Antwerp, had all the realism of an instantaneous photograph plus the artistic quality of which many of our modern realists make too little account; and to many another talented painter in this city of artistic traditions. Jan Veth has already been mentioned, but a word must be given to J. Toorop, who is preëminently a colorist, and of late a leader in the new school of the symbolists. His is a most original nature, seeking to develop a theory of expressive lines — lines of sorrow, joy, fear, hate, etc. He attempts musical and literary subjects rather than those which are usually considered paintable. Der Kinderen, too, is one of the school of New Holland, a figure-painter moved to decoration. He has executed some remarkable mural paintings for the Hôtel de Ville of Bois-le-Duc in Brabant, and for other public buildings, in clear and delicate rose, yellowish, and lilac harmonies. He has also designed stained-glass windows, and is known as an illustrator, ill in the same medieval, tapestry-like style, traditional in its suggestion, but modern and original in its application.
Miss Wally Moes, an able portrait- and figure-painter, has her studio in Amsterdam, but she is also closely identified with Laren; and to this fascinating artists' colony we made, one memorable day, a most delightful excursion.
We had heard of it before, through Miss Clara McChesney, who worked here long enough to catch the charm which infuses the style of its best painters. We were warmly welcomed by one of the artists of the colony, Miss A. Hugenholtz, and were at once pleasantly established in the cozy little inn. This inn has served as home or club-house for many a talented artist, and its pleasant dining-room is hung with paintings of the Laren school. Occupying the place of honor over the mantel is a portrait of Mauve by Miss Wally Moes; for Mauve had a house at Laren, and was the leading spirit of the colony while he lived. Among other paintings decorating the walls are roses by Amy Cross; a cattle-piece by Howe; a red sea of crimson, the tulip-beds of Haarlem, by Nithuys; and an admirable snow scene by Miss Hugenholtz. The work of this gifted woman deserves special mention, Broad, strong, and thoughtful, it displays a quiet power, a calm justness of perception, and a certainty of execution which have given her an enviable position both in Europe and America. She has built for herself a little studio at Laren, which is filled with careful studies of peasant life. She is severe with herself, and although a hard worker, exhibits but little.
Since the death of Mauve, Albert Neuhuys, of all the artists in the little colony, is best known to the world. He has preserved a gentle simplicity and a frankness of manner which are extremely winning. Either the world's clamor never enters this enchanted forest, or Albert Neuhuys counts fame at its true worth. His atelier is unostentatious, and yet possesses a certain air of distinction which tells that it is not the haunt of an ordinary man. There are a few bits of old stamped leather dating back to the Spanish occupation, some shreds and wrecks of ancient gobelin, a carved chair or so; but we have seen costlier bric-à-brac in the studio of many a young American, and we speedily recognized that the air of distinction that we had noticed came, not from the furnishings, but from the high quality of the pictures and studies with which every available inch of wall-space was covered. They were chiefly interiors, flooded with luminous, golden sunshine, or with mysterious shadows in their low-toned depths. His pictures are the apotheosis of motherhood: there is a baby or a mother on nearly every canvas. One catches the reflex of his own happy home life; for every painting is a tribute to the homely joys and virtues of the fireside. There may be, and doubtless are, bitter poverty and suffering in Laren, for it is a weaving village, and the looms sometimes stand idle; but Neuhuys rarely paints this phase of life. He leaves us with our hearts warmed with kindlier sympathy, with a spark of envy, even, for the untrammeled simplicity and the unfailing devotion of the peasant women of Laren.
One of the younger men, who seems at the first glance a little out of place in Laren, is Bosch Reiz, who has had French training, and has adopted the best of impressionism. There is the faintest possible touch of sophistication in his work, a flavor which, as has well been said, will not spoil it for the taste of the present day. But he is honest at heart, or he would not love as he does this very honest and unworldly village, where he has built for himself a handsome studio, and buries himself half the year quite away from the fashionable English world, of which he is a favorite.
But the clasp which held together these gems of genius is lost, Mauve's studio is occupied by a newcomer, and his brother artists and the simple peasants of Laren alike mourn one whose genius they idolized and whose companionship they cherished. In the Dutch exhibit at the international exhibition at Antwerp three years ago, visitors must have noticed three wreaths of palm shrouded in crape. They were testimonials of sorrow from the painters of Holland for the death of their confrères Mauve, Bosboom, and Artz.
Though Mauve refused to call himself a teacher, he had many pupils, foremost among whom rank Philip Zilcken and Misses Hugenholtz and Wally Moes. These all testify to the personal charm as well as to the high achievement of their beloved master. He had a refined, sensitive nature, delicate and subtile, with intense sensibility to music and the finesse of tones in nature and art. He loved to paint the bright days of February, the halcyon days of winter, and the mystery of dawn and eve; and no one knew so well as he how to differentiate between these seasons and hours, so greatly resembling one another, or how to give the distinction between the afterglow of sunset and the first faint flush of dawn creeping through the mists of early morning twilight.
Of the other Dutch painters who have passed to the immortals, Bosboom had filled a long life with earnest and successful work; but it was not until his last decade that he reached the apogee of his genius and became one of the greatest painters of church interiors of any period or country.
Of the last of the Dutch painters of whom we shall speak, D. A. C. Artz, there is little to be said not already known to the public. He had the same love for child-life, the same appreciation of the beauty and poetry which exist in lowly homes, which Édouard Frère possessed. He belonged, like Frère, to the sympathetic school of genre-painters; but he possessed a gravity of tone, a "harmony in the lowest register," entirely Dutch in its quality. Perhaps there was never an artist more universally loved than Artz. Mauve may have been more intensely worshiped by those who knew him intimately, but even casual acquaintances felt that they knew Artz. The man's soul is seen in his work, simple and true, abounding in ready sympathy and in all the sweet human virtues, thoughtful for others and neglectful of self. If, as has been nobly said, "To live in honour, to labor with steadfast industry, and to endure with cheerful patience, is to be victorious," then Artz and many another Dutch painter are victors indeed.