Dutch Art in the Nineteenth Century/The Forerunners of the Hague School

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Dutch Art in the Nineteenth Century by Gerharda Hermina Marius, translated by Alexander Teixeira de Mattos
The Forerunners of the Hague School


CHAPTER V

The Forerunners of the Hague School


The Van Os family of painters, of whom Jan, the oldest (1744-1808), his son Georgius Johannes Jacobus (1782-1861), the flower-painter, and the latter's brother Pieter Gerardus (1776-1839), the cattle-painter, were the best known, can boast of good qualities in spite of the fact that each of its members now counts mainly as a master of later generations. In addition to the above, there were Pieter Frederik (1808-1860), a son of the last-named, and Margaretha (1780-1862), a sister of the same. Pieter Gerardus, completing a painting family of five that covers the period between 1744 and 1862, over a century in all. The father, Jan van Os, was a painter of flowers, but was far surpassed by his son and pupil, who, in some respects, may be called an excellent flower-painter. His pictures of still-life and flowers were much sought after and one of them fetched 5,650 guilders at auction in 1845. His brother, Pieter Gerardus, also made a name for himself. He painted in the manner of Potter and, though he received his earliest lessons from his father, he formed himself, by industrious copying, upon his illustrious model. His incidents of the Siege of Naarden, in which he took part as a volunteer, are more important than the ordinary historical pieces of his time; and there is something spontaneous in his Cossack Outpost which almost recalls Breitner in the unity between the landscape and the group of soldiers. His chief pupils are Wouterus Verschuur (1812-1874), Simon van den Berg (1812-1891), who left some cabinet-pieces not devoid of feeling, Guillaume Anne van der Brugghen (1811-1891), a fine dog-painter, whose studies remind one of Maris, and Jan van Ravenswaay (1789-1869), who continued his master's ideas, while Pieter Frederik, his son, became the valued master of Mauve, whose early work constantly betrays the influence of Van Os. As in the case of his more famous father, the arrangement of his pictures was inspired principally by Potter and not always by that painter's best side. He seemed to prefer to take the composition from the left - the spectator's left - of Paul Potter's Young Bull in the Mauritshuis, variations on which are continually found in Mauve's early drawings. In any case, though Van Os may have been deficient in pictorial instinct, it is pretty certain that both Mauve and his fellow-pupil, J. H. L. de Haas, must have learnt much from him in the anatomy of cows and sheep.


In this respect, perhaps Hendrik van de Sande Bakhuijzen showed better work. Born at the Hague in 1795, he was the pupil successively of S. A. Krausz (1760-1825), a Hague painter and a pupil of L. Defrance of Liège, of J. W. Pieneman and his pupil J. Heymans and of the Hague Sketching Club. He did not possess Kobell's gifts of agreeable and distinguished composition, but he was a good draughtsman and painted his pictures with simplicity. His landscapes are entirely free from mannerism and artificiality; and, if they contain no trace of feeling and as little merit of colour, at least we find not an atom of borrowed sensibility or borrowed colour in the pictures of this honest landscape-painter. He had many pupils: Willem Roelofs, the pioneer, who first came from Barbizon to tell of the beauty of nature as seen through the painter's temperament; Jan Willem van Borselen, who loved to paint those blustering moments when the colourless side of the leaves is blown upwards by the wind and who produced excellently-painted and daintily-conceived little pictures on panels smaller than a man's hand; Jacob Jan van der Maaten (1820-1879), whose Cornfield in the Hague Museum shows that he was an attentive, if not an emotional painter; Christiaan Immerzeel, born in 1808, who painted romantic, but feeble moonlight scenes; Jan Frederik and Willem Anthonie van Deventer (1822-1866 and 1824-1893), of whom the first was a landscape-painter and the second a deserving painter of sea and river-views. Hendrik van de Sande Bakhuijzen died in 1864.


When we look at the sea-pieces of Johannes Christianus Schotel (1787-1838) at the Rijksmuseum, we are inevitably reminded of the Pienemans and Krusemans. Any objects that have not to do with pure painting are perfect and those qualified to judge have said that his ships are equipped with so much technical accuracy and ride the waters so admirably that the most expert skipper could not improve upon them. Small wonder that he enjoyed the same esteem as the painters of le grand art. It is true that his skies were often out of harmony with the sea and appeared to be made of cardboard and that the water displayed more paint than transparency; still, he was a thoughtful painter, who cleverly supported the movement of his ships by the composition of the waves and knew how to put a picture together. These qualities appear particularly in his drawings, which surprise us agreably with the untrammelled outlook, the firmness of the execution and the majestic effects which, seated in his boat and drawing direct from nature, he often succeeded in attaining. Here we see none of that antiquated soapy hardness or hard soapiness which clings to all his painted work however clever the latter may be. His first master was the Dordrecht candle-light painter Adriaan Meulemans (1766-1835) and he received his artistic training at the hands of Martinus Schouman (1770-1841), the best sea-painter of his time. His pictures often fetched considerable prices and his success descended, in a certain measure, to his son and pupil Petrus Johannes Schotel (1808-1865).


A sea-painter of the same school was Johan Hendrik Louis Meijer, who was born at Amsterdam in 1810, studied under Pieter Westenberg and, later, under J. W. Pieneman, lived for some years at Deventer, settled in Paris in 1841 and afterwards moved to the Hague, where he died in 1866. At the commencement of his career, he used to introduce history-painting into his sea-pieces, but seldom to such an extent as to interfere with his seeking for good effects of light. He was a very systematic and successful painter. Among his pupils he may be said to include Jacob Maris, who, however, really attended his studio rather to assist him with his seascapes, and, in any case, Matthijs Maris, although Meijer told the latter, when he came this studio as a child of ten, that there was nothing that he could teach him, for Thijs knew everything.


Andreas Schelfhout formed himself as a landscape-painter upon Meijer's seascapes. He was born at the Hague in 1787 and worked until his twenty-fourth year in the shop of his father, who was a maker of picture-frames, devoting his spare hours to painting. A landscape which he exhibited in 1815 was seen to possess something out of the ordinary and this was confirmed by a Wintry View exhibited a couple of years later. Some of his earlier landscapes display a certain freshness of idea, nor should any painter generally be judged exclusively by the work of his later years. Schelfhout's first little pictures often impress us by the original colouring of their skies, by the reflection of those skies in the cold blue of the frozen water below, even though the smooth and unreal treatment lead us to entertain a not unmingled appreciation of his merits. He was an indefatigable worker, never wasting a moment, and achieved a certain reputation beyond the confines of his own country. As late as 1870, most collectors thought themselves fortunate to possess one of his ice-pieces. And his colouring - I am speaking of his best period - undoubtedly entitles him to take rank among the founders of the modern landscape school. Schelfhout died at the Hague in 1870. His chief pupil was Jongkind, who for many years was unable to free himself from his master's method. He also taught Nuyen, whom I will mention below, Jan Bedijs Tom, the animal-painter, Charles Henri Joseph Leickert, born in 1818, who also painted under Nuyen, but never achieved any considerable distinction, and Dubourcq, a deserving Amsterdam landscape-painter.


Wijnand Jan Joseph Nuyen was born at the Hague in 1813. There have perhaps been few painters who roused such confident hopes in their fellow-artists as did Nuyen; few young artists - Nuyen died in 1839, in his twenty-seventh year who were so greatly mourned for the sake both of their own personality and of their promising work; few who, at so young an age, wielded so great and so seductive an influence over their contemporaries. The young Catholic painter possessed more of the true artist's passion than his contemporaries: most of his pictures in spite of their treacly brown, display a yearning for colour, a search for the splendid, a groping after the romanticism of the middle ages that inspired all his work and induced others to follow in his footsteps.

He has left church-porches in which the persons streaming out of the edifice count not as separate figures, but as a connected group, lit up by a warm and life-giving sun. He also painted river-scenes in the style of his friend Waldorp, less pretty, perhaps, but also much less illustration-like. One of these river-scenes, known sometimes as Le Coup de Canon, is in the Wallace collection in London. He also painted many admirable Gothic church-interiors.

His short life was one mighty effort, one incessant artistic enthusiasm, of a kind which had not been known in recent years. It seems surprising that he should have had Rochussen for a pupil, if we remember only the latter's illustrative talent. But many a little painting of Rochussen's shows a relationship with Nuyen minus the brown sauce; and, when all is said, are not the wagon and horses in Nuyen's Old Mill in the Hague Museum typical and illustrative in the best sense?


Antonie Waldorp (1803-1866) was a pupil of Breckenheimer's, whom he helped in his scene-painting, and it was not until after his marriage, in his twenty-third year, with the sister of his fellow-pupil Bart van Hove, that he began to apply himself entirely to the practice of painting proper, executing various subjects: church-interiors, portraits and domestic interiors. When he reached the age of thirty-five, he confined himself more particularly to river-scenes, for which he had a great reputation in his time. He was a friend of Nuyen, with whom he took a journey to Germany and Belgium, and it is not improbable that, although his young and more gifted friend was ten years his junior, Waldorp was nevertheless influenced by Nuyen in his choice of subjects and especially in their romantic conception. Although Waldorp's river-scenes are painted in too treacly a fashion to find much favour in our days, although their shadows show signs of affectation, we are bound, on the other hand, to recognize a certain freedom of treatment and a well-considered composition.


Of much greater importance than Schelfhout to nineteenth-century painting was the Hague scene-painter Bartholomeus Johannes van Hove (1790-1880), who may be described as the foundation upon which a whole generation of artists has built, either directly through himself or indirectly through his son and pupil Hubertus van Hove. There are little pictures of his, representing churches seen from the entrance to the choir, which anticipate his pupil Bosboom; and, while he displayed a certain grandeur in his acceptance of his art, although he is not to be compared with his pupil, he was an excellent instructor, who, following the good traditions, directed the art of painting into another and wider channel.

B. J. van Hove, like most scene-painters, was a Jack-of-all-trades. He painted a complete set of scenery for the theatre at Nijmegen, where the curtain is admired to this day; for the Hague he designed the side-scenes for The Wreck of the Medusa, which are considered his best stage work. In this his pupils assisted him and it is quite possible that, in so doing, they acquired that boldness and breadth in painting which they could never have learnt from Van Hove the painter of town-views. As a lad, he had begun with engraving; afterwards he worked under his father, who was a frame-maker and also did a little engraving, and through him he became acquainted with the scene-painter of the Hague Theatre, J. H. A. A. Breckenheimer, who trained him in his own art. Van Hove's little pictures, mostly town-views, were much valued in their time and, though there is no question of direct drawing and the colouring is feeble, yet, in the general conception of his subject, usually a piece of a large church, he undoubtedly proves himself a precursor of Bosboom. His seventieth birthday was splendidly celebrated at the theatre and by Pulchri Studio, the well-known artists' club, which presented him with an inscribed silver goblet. That uncommonly gifted singer, Mrs. Offermans-van Hove, pressed a crown of laurels on his silvered brow. He lived to be nearly ninety years of age. His chief pupils were Bosboom, Sam Verveer, H. J. Weissenbruch, Everardus Koster (1817-1892), who painted river-scenes in the manner of Waldorp, but whose drawings of Gothic architecture rank higher, and his eldest son Hubertus.


Hubertus or Huib van Hove (1819-1865) was taught painting not only by his father, but also by Van de Sande Bakhuijzen and, though he constantly kept pace with Bosboom and painted churches in the latter's manner, he started as a landscape-painter. But the force of this none too forcible painter lay in neither of these two styles. His love of colour and bright light was best displayed in his so-called doorkijkjes, or domestic vistas, in the style of Pieter de Hooche, that is to say, views of outdoor light seen through an interior, a room or kitchen situated between the street-door and an inner yard. Teyler's Museum possesses an excellent specimen in The Knitter, a picture which, although it lacks all the essence of his sublime model, is of a lively composition and shows an inclination for a stronger and fresher colouring than prevailed in Van Hove's day.

Among his pupils were Jacob Maris, Christoffel Bisschop, Stroebel, Maurits Leon (1838-1865), who died so young and whose Interior of a Synagogue, although not his best-known work, aroused great expectations at the time, and Hendricus Johannes Scheeres (1823-1864), who continued his master's teaching in his Armourer and Linen-shop and who enjoyed the appreciation of his brother-artists. He, also, died too young to establish his name.


A painter who rendered excellent service to Dutch art not only through his own performances, but also by his influence upon his pupils was Petrus Franciscus Greive, who was born in Amsterdam in 1811 and died in 1872. He was "a painter to the bottom of his heart," as his contemporaries used to call him, and was closely related to Huib van Hove in his love for Hooche-like interiors. But, whereas neither of them really had anything to speak of in common with Pieter de Hooche, Greive had not the command of light, shade and colour that was afterwards to distinguish the Hague painter. It is true that the enormous number of his lessons prevented him from quite coming into his own as a painter; and, moreover, he started in much less favourable circumstances than Huib van Hove. In the first place, his master, the feeble history-painter Christiaan Julius Lodewijk Portman (1799-1867), was not to be compared with B. J. van Hove either for his old-Dutch cabinet-pieces or for his composition and workmanship. And then the difference between his surroundings and those at the Hague amid which Bosboom, Huib van Hove's fellow-pupil, worked! Nevertheless, the Rijksmuseum possesses of this estimable artist, who was perhaps more of a draughts-man than a painter, an Old-Dutch Serving-maid, in a De Hooche setting, which lacks nothing except truth to life, while Teyler's Museum has a Marken Interior which contains more movement and which, as regards the subject, reminds one rather of Jozef Israëls' more romantic period.

Greive is of most importance to our own period through his pupil Allebé. He had many others, including Leon, whom I have already named, Diederik Franciscus Jamin (1838-1865), who died young and who, within the bounds of a limited talent, was full of promise, Hendrik Jacobus Scholten, born in 1824, who excelled in the depicting of satin and also painted from a more emotional point of view, in addition to his nephew, Johan Conrad Greive Jr. (1837-1891), who became known as a painter of river-scenes with barges and of views on the IJ.


Barend Cornells Koekkoek (1803-1862) was esteemed as highly as a landscape-painter in his time as Jacob Maris in ours. Although he is now antiquated and out of fashion, his value remains. And this is not without good reason. When hung between indifferent works by modern landscape-men, his work impresses the spectator by its power, by the firm and correct construction of the trees, by the broad, natural growth of the leaves and boughs, by the careful and elaborate reproduction of the wooded landscape, even though the representation be, as I have said, antiquated and somewhat cold. He seems to have based his method by turns upon Hobbema and Wijnands, but mainly upon the latter, while he lacked the simple distinction of his illustrious models, however excellent he may have been in the portrayal of heavy trees. His best pieces are those which show but little of the open air, for the landscape fell more within his scope than the sky, which in his pictures often suggests scene-painting.

B. C. Koekkoek was a native of Middelburg; he was the eldest son of Johannes Hermanus Koekkoek (1778-1851), a well-known sea and river-painter, who, after learning his trade in a tapestry-factory, formed himself by studying from nature and afterwards brought up all his sons - he had four, of whom, after Barend, Hermanus was the best-known - as painters. Our Koekkoek did not confine himself to the landscape of his own country and found the scenes that best satisfied his taste in the Harz Mountains, the Rhine Provinces, Belgium and, particularly, in Gelderland and the Cleves district. His work was greatly valued and highly paid in Paris, Brussels and St. Petersburg.


Johannes Warnardus Bllders (1811-1890) was born at Utrecht and took lessons from Jan Lodewijk Jonxis (1789-1866). In the phrase of that time, however, "nature," or, more correctly, "his own genius was his best master." After a course of travels in Germany, he settled down at Oosterbeek, which had not yet become a "park" of villas and "desirable residences." In 1854, he went to Amsterdam, where his friend N. Pieneman, Schwartze, who had already made his name, and their junior, Jozef Israëls, were living. Bilders had exhibited for the first time in 1840; Schwartze's first work was shown between 1845 and 1850; Israëls had exhibits his Aaron in Amsterdam in 1854, painted his romantic By Mother's Grave in 1856 and followed this up in 1858 with his well-known Little Knitter and, somewhat later, with that little master-piece of romanticism, After the Storm.

I doubt whether Bilders' great talent ever reached its full development. He stood alone, absolutely alone. The phlegmatic painters who were content slavishly to copy nature, the eminent painters of fields and cattle had little or nothing in common with him and the studies which were sold at the auction held in the studio of the late Mrs. Bilders-van Bosse, his second wife, prove that he felt a longing for more colour, that, directly or indirectly, he had experienced the influence of a Delacroix. At any rate, there were some among them which exhibited a great tendency towards modern methods with their sharp colour-scheme, into which no bitumen, no brown sauce entered to spoil the clearness of the impression conveyed.

As his pupils, I may name his son, Albert Gerard Bilders, who died young, and Miss Marie van Bosse, who afterwards became his wife. I will return both to the former, who proved himself a pioneer, if not by his painting, at least by recording his wishes and longings in the matter of the painter's art, and to the latter, who was a well-known landscape-painter.