Dutch Art in the Nineteenth Century/The Hague School: Sequel

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


CHAPTER VII

The Hague School: Sequel


Albert Neuhuijs, Blommers and Artz followed the example of Israëls and infused new life into our art of genre-painting.

Neuhuijs belongs to the school of Israëls in his choice of subjects and to that of Jacob Maris in his colouring. He has shown himself a painter of feeling who is able to represent the calm workaday life of the people of Laren or Brabant in a natural and unforced manner: a woman tending her child, or preparing dinner, or watering flowers; an elder sister teaching a younger child to knit: all against the rich red of a cupboard, or a white wall, or a low dresser. Although his work of 1875 to 1885 possesses the solid merits of the cabinet-painters and will undoubtedly stand the test of time, he altered his methods afterwards to this extent, that he now paints in the houses themselves that form the background of his subjects, thus giving a more spontaneous effect, although he misses the precious side of his earlier pieces. The studio gives him no ideas and so he goes off with his big canvases to those Laren interiors where, as he says, "nature herself places the colours in his hands and the movements and attitudes of the figures are there, in their natural environment." And, even if the picture, as such, suffers occasionally through the defective lighting of his work, we gain the natural little child-figures upon which, in the ripe tone of the whole picture, the sunny light falls that gilds a profil perdu, a downy neck, a head of yellow hair.

Albert Neuhuijs was born at Utrecht in 1844 and received his first instruction at the hands of Gijsbertus Craeyvanger, studying later at the Antwerp Academy. He began as a history-painter in the Antwerp manner and is said to have excelled at that time in the painting of satin. The portraits of women which he produced during this period were noted for their elegance. He did not begin to turn his attention to the painting of interiors until 1870 or later.


Bemardus Johannes Blommers, the youngest of this generation of painters, was born at the Hague in 1845. He is a pupil of Bisschop and of the Hague Academy, but he formed himself and his work has nothing in common with that of his master, nothing of Israëls and but little of Jacob Maris, whom he admires above all others. As against the tender conception of his subjects displayed by Neuhuijs, Blommers sees his fisher-folk from the glad and robust side. There is a great contrast between his sturdy children of the sea and Israëls' frail, pensive creations. Like most painters, he began by producing powerfully-drawn small figures, like that strong picture, Maternal Joys, at the Municipal Museum in Amsterdam: a cabinet-piece which possesses every quality save that of atmosphere. It belongs to the time when our painters felt more strongly bound to the old masters and to their model, the time when the trend towards wider harmonies, subtler analyses of colour, quicker solutions of light was still slumbering. However delicately treated and powerfully modelled, the young mother in this picture already shows that healthy side of his art which, afterwards, about 1882, found its most forcible expression in The Fish-woman, engaged in gutting fish, in the Hague Museum: a strong figure painted in deep red tones, against which the white of the fish lying on the red tiles in the foreground stands out as a delightful still-life, completing the warm browns and reds of this truly imposing work.


Next to or together with Hein Burgers, David Adolphe Constant Artz was undoubtedly Israëls' principal pupil. He first came into contact with Israëls at the evening-classes under Royer at the Amsterdam Academy, where he painted by day from the living model, under Egenberger. From that time, he worked with his master, whom he followed to Zandvoort. Afterwards, when he had selected his tendency, he resolved to go to Paris, where he became very intimate with Jacob and Matthijs Maris (who painted the well-known portrait of Artz) and with Kaemmerer.

If we compare Artz, Israëls' pupil, with his master, we are struck by the absence of those mystic qualities which the latter's later works reveal and which Artz admired so whole-heartedly and lacked quite consciously in his own work. In a picture such as Mournings despite the fine expression of sorrow, despite the fine sentiment that places the sobbing woman bending forward against the rosy, utterly unconscious child, we are struck by the fact that this sorrow does not, as it would have done were the picture painted by Israëls, permeate the whole figure, the fall of the folds of the woman's dress, the fall of the light, every detail of the apartment, which would have been dramatized as it were in and through the human tragedy; we see that Artz is more positive and more practical, that he prefers to follow his model, to give his attention to each object and that, from this point of view, the folds of that dress are beautifully painted, beautiful too and seventeenth-century those squat little baby-shoes on that empty floor, a detail upon which Jan Steen could not have improved.

Properly speaking, Artz was one of the first realists in our country. Loving nature, he carefully followed her in his models and, especially in his studies painted from nature, showed a very complete, correct and delicate sense of the pale tonalities of beach and dunes. He was particularly happy in his open-air pictures, in which his work showed a great charm. The studies, again, for his most famous picture, The Refectory of the Katwijk Almshouse, belong to the best and the most original that we possess in this respect. Artz was born in 1837 and died at the Hague in 1890.


In addition to Hein Burgers (1834-1899), Jozef Israëls' only actual pupil, who, it is true, adopted mainly the somewhat morbid side of his intrinsically sound and healthy master, but who left some delicately-painted little pictures, Valkenburg, the painter of interiors, was a faithful and capable follower of Israëls. Hendrik Valkenburg (1826-1896) was a painter who was prevented by circumstances until he had almost attained his fiftieth year from devoting himself, free of all school-lessons, to an art to which he had felt attracted all his life and in which he eventually succeeded in making a respectable name, in the style of Israëls. He painted farm-house interiors, honestly and simply rendered, mostly of those enormous Twente kitchens, simply and truthfully and well and unpretentiously drawn. Valkenburg once related, before falling under the charm of Mauve in his Laren period, that Israëls had said to him that, in every tone and every shadow, a colour should retain its own principle, so that blue remained blue, red red and so on. The Hague master, the inscrutable painter of luminous browns, had long abandoned this principle for a less narrow solution of light, for a freer analysis of space; but Valkenburg held fast to it and we must admit that it constitutes his strength. For that matter, at Laren too and especially in his little kitchen-gardens this painter showed great merit.


Though Bisschop's conception of the interior is not related in respect of artlessness and not at all in that of the joy of life with the pictures of the old "little masters," neither was his conception that of Israëls or of Jacob Maris. It is true that he gave a portrait of the old Hinlopen life, a peinture des mœurs of the old popular life in Friesland, of everyday happenings in the household, but he failed to expand it into something generally human. Nor did he aim at doing so; for, whereas Jozef Israëls looks upon things only as a means to increase the expression for his model, Bisschop was above all a painter of still-life, to whom the figures were necessary attributes to give life to the precious objects of a past age and to justify their use. Nevertheless, I know pictures of Bisschop's in which the figures form the main feature, such as those young women standing before a mirror or reading at a writing-table; and in The Mennonite Supper at Hinlopen, figures and still-life are very happily combined.

Christoffel Bisschop was born at Leeuwarden in 1828. In 1846, after receiving an elementary education in his native town, he went to Delft to work under Schmidt, then in the zenith of his fame. After Schmidt's death, Bisschop studied under Huib van Hove. From 1852 to 1855, the year in which he settled at the Hague, he worked in the studio of Le Comte and Charles Gleyre, formerly the Atelier Delaroche, in Paris. He made a considerable name. The house which he occupied with his wife, an Irish lady by birth, in the woods between the Hague and Scheveningen, was arranged as an old Frisian dwelling-house and might be looked upon as a museum of domestic art. He died recently, in 1904.


The art of painting in water-colours underwent great changes in the hands of the Hague masters. A water-colour ceased to be either the compact picture in oils which an earlier generation had produced or the pencil, chalk or pen-and-ink drawing, lightly washed with colour, of the old masters. In the hands of our impressionists, water-colour painting, like oil-painting, became an emotional art, an harmonious whole, until, with the aid of this thinner medium, our Dutch impressionism went further, arrived at subtler results and attained a more general modernity then the more classic oil-paintings.

Long before the institution of the exhibitions of the famous Hague Sketching Club, the views held by the Pulchri Studio Society at the Hague and Felix Meritis and Arti et Amicitiae in Amsterdam had given occasion for the display of water-colours. At first, these took place only in the evenings. For a time, they were attended regularly by Queen Sophie and Prince Henry of the Netherlands and by the Duke of Saxe-Weimar and his daughter. The general public continued reactionary in matters of art and I can remember the speeches delivered about 1880 on the subject of Jacob Maris' delicious water-colour drawings, speeches embodying gruesome anticipations concerning the future of an art in which sketches, as Maris' drawings were called, were exhibited as completed works. And this was at a time when Jaap Maris had long been acknowledged as a master, a title which was denied him by the older generation of Hague painters for many a long day.

The original members of the Hague Water-colour Society were Van de Sande Bakhuijzen, Miss van de Sande Bakhuijzen, Bisschop, Mrs. Bisschop-Swift, Bles, Blommers, Bosboom, Henkes, Israëls, Jacob and Willem Maris, Mauve, Mesdag, Sadée and Pieter Stortenbeker. These were immediately joined by Artz, Duchattel, Nakken, Albert Neuhuijs, C. S. Stortenbeker, E. Verveer and Weissenbruch, as ordinary members; while Alma Tadema in London, Allebé and J. W. Bilders in Amsterdam, David and Pieter Oyens, the Famars Testas, Gabriël and Roelofs in Brussels, Rochussen in Amsterdam and a few Belgians, including Emile Wouters, and many Italians, including, at a later date, Segantini, took part in the famous August exhibitions as honorary members.

First, in chronological order, among the minor artists of the Hague school is Charles Rochussen, born at Rotterdam in 1815, who was looked upon, in the latter half of the nineteenth century, as the only illustrative talent of importance among us. Teyler's Museum at Haarlem has a Hunting Party, painted in 1857, a scene filled with lords and ladies on horseback on a hilly heath in Gelderland, which, for observation, delicate drawing and happy colouring, is quite excellent of its kind. The Fodor Museum in Amsterdam possesses similar little pieces and also a Dog-cart, which is cleverly drawn and admirably painted. Rochussen died in 1894. It is a pity that this painter of very considerable talent and originality was eventually merged, as it were, in the draughtsman and illustrator; and yet he was the only illustrator of any importance that our country has produced.


Elchanon Verveer (1826-1900), like Israëls, Artz and Blommers, took his subjects from amid the life of the fishermen on the sea-coast.

Pieter Stortenbeker (1828-1898), the animal painter, may be said to have surpassed both his masters, H. van de Sande Bakhuijzen and J. B. Tom.

Johannes Hubertus Leonardus de Haas, the Guelder artist, born in 1828, had the same master as Mauve. He moved to Brussels at an early age and, though he there learnt to make a perhaps superfluous use of white paint, he nevertheless displays, in his Early Morning at the Rijksmuseum, a great power of form and a strenuous search after atmosphere.

Julius Jacobus van de Sande Bakhuijzen, born in 1835, a pupil of his father's, is a moderately good landscape-painter who has found his level more particularly in forest-views.

Willem Carel Nakken, bom in 1835, a pupil of Dona's, has some very good paintings with horses scattered through various museums.

Paulus van der Velden, born in 1837 at Rotterdam, is a full-blooded painter of interiors.

Philip Sadée, born at the Hague in 1837, is a painter not without importance.

Jozef Hendrikus Neuhuijs (1841-1890), a younger brother of Albert Neuhuys, displayed a very delicate and sensitive talent.

Gerke Henkes, born at Delftshaven in 1844, enjoyed a not undeserved success at a time when anecdotal painting was more generally appreciated than now.

Pieter ter Meulen, born in 1843, a pupil of H. van de Sande Bakhuijzen, although lacking Mauve's fulness of tone, is one of the most honest followers of that great painter.


Far above any of these stood Eduard Alphonse Victor Auguste van der Meer (1846-1899). Although he was not a painter of wide scope, he possessed the merit of portraying well and faithfully the polderlands reclaimed by Weissenbruch and Gabriël. If he were not at the same time such a pure painter, one might call him the topographer of the pools of South Holland, for none of them all was able so simply and succinctly as he to write upon the smooth surface of those pools, whether in autumn or winter, the little accidents pertaining to it: the thin reeds, a boat or a belt of underwood. His work may be somewhat too even and this is probably due to the fact that he was deaf and dumb, which caused him to turn his thoughts too much upon himself; but, on the other hand, his sense of still nature became all the greater.

A few women-painters belong to this period. Henriette Ronner-Knip, born in Amsterdam in 1821, a pupil of her father, J. A. Knip (1777-1847), was doubtless the most popular woman-painter of her time. From the first, she applied herself to the painting of animals, of dogs and especially cats; and she owes her name to the natural movements which she knew how to give to her pet cats and kittens.

Maria Philippine Bilders-van Bosse (1837-1900) proved herself a ready pupil of painters such as Bosboom, Van de Sande Bakhuijzen and, especially, J. W. Bilders, who subsequently became her husband. She had a very simple feeling for landscape-painting.

Sina Mesdag-van Houten, born at Groningen in 1834, married H. W. Mesdag and began to paint at the Hague. She received her first instruction (her real education came to her from the French painters whose works Mesdag had collected), as far as regards drawing, from D'Arnaud Gerkens and she declares that she also learnt much from a talented woman painter, Harriet Lindo. Mrs. Mesdag has proved herself to be an artist of emotional power, able to set before us in the grand manner the spacious solitude, the startling loneliness and abandonment of our heaths and dunes.

Margaretha Vogel-Roosenboom (1843-1899), granddaughter of Schelfhout and wife of Johannes Gijsbert Vogel (born in 1828), the landscape-painter, and Gerardina Jacoba van de Sande Bakhuijzen (1826-1895) represented the female element at the Hague exhibitions and made a fair name for themselves with their flowers and fruit. Technically, the latter was the superior of the two; but the former had more artistic feeling, in so far that she selected her own arrangement of colour.

Neither of them possessed the solid talent of their senior, Maria Vos, born in 1824 and a pupil of Petrus Kiers, whose painting partook rather of the old Dutch excellence. She is represented in Boy mans' Museum by a picture of still-life which goes to show that she is unsurpassed by any woman-painter of this style in our country.


J. B. Tom's mantle may be said to have descended upon Johannes Martinus Vrolijk (1846-1896), an unemotional but serious painter of fields and cattle. Vrolijk was a pupil of Pieter Stortenbeker, distinguished himself by his own etchings and managed the Pulchri Studio press, which produced Jacob Maris' Mill and so many other famous etchings.

Richard Bisschop, born at Leeuwarden in 1849, is a cultured painter of church-interiors, which he executes with great thoroughness and completeness. Occasionally, in his water-colour drawings of Catholic churches, in the twilight of the columns seen against the candle-light and the faint light from outside, he shows his relationship with Israëls; while, on the other hand, his painting reveals the influence of his uncle and master, Christoffel Bisschop.

Marinus Boks (1849-1885) was an immediate pupil of Mauve's and a pure landscape-painter. In the few pictures of his short life known to us, he has said something about the dunes that none had said before him. Yet it is not possible to judge with certainty, because, during his illness, Jacob Maris often completed his unfinished pictures for him with his own powerful hand.

Lodewijk Frederik Hendrik (known as Louis) Apol, born at the Hague in 1850, was a pupil of the Hague Academy, of Johannes Franciscus Hoppenbrouwers (1819-1866) and of P. Stortenbeker. He is a skilful painter, who achieved the full measure of his talent at an early age, making a name, when only twenty-five, with a snow-piece, A January Day, now in the Amsterdam Municipal Museum.

A more powerful figure is Theophile de Bock, born at the Hague in 1851. Although he was a pupil of Van Borselen and Weissenbruch, he began by painting important landscapes, inspired by Corot, and afterwards passed over to Jacob Maris, with whose palette, as it were, he painted some quiet pools, conceived in a virile manner. He displays his talent not only in his earlier pictures, but also and more especially in his chalk drawings relieved with a touch of colour. Here he shows both strength and delicacy and also his later originality, without a certain clumsiness which spoils the harmony of his boldly-constructed landscapes.


Johannes Christiaan Karel Klinkenberg, born at the Hague in 1852, is a painter of town-views, an illusive limner of bright sunlight on house-fronts, quite as topographical as Springer, but less colourful, less studied in his composition, painting the old buildings and squares and canals of our country cleverly and unemotionally, in a manner that is always reminiscent of his master, Christoffel Bisschop. Klinkenberg is a painter of whom one might have expected that he would have taken the excellent Jan Weissenbruch, with his fine, sound workmanship, for his guide in a style which, separately considered, has been produced by no later artist with the same amount of truth and value. However, he found himself and worked out his own ideas, which, if they do not fall within the domain of pure painting, are, in any case, popular.


George Poggenbeek (1853-1902), the Amsterdam representative of this generation following immediately upon the great Hague masters, has more than any other reproduced the sense of this school in his distinguished conception of our landscape with meadows and cattle, which has been painted in so many various ways. To the delicacy of Mauve he added the luxurious green which Willem Maris gives us in his "duck" motives; and, though he lacks the passion of the latter and the simplicity of the former, he commands a daintiness of line, of a more or less decorative quality, by which he atones in distinction of composition for his shortcomings in power.

Poggenbeek was destined for commerce; his intercourse with that talented and short-lived painter, Hamrath, made him take to drawing and painting when he was nineteen. He received his instruction from Z. H. Velthuizen, a painter who was not much heard of in his day, but who formed a number of pupils. He also learnt much from his connection with Bastert, with whom he lived for seven years at Breukelen. He also painted in Normandy and Brittany: fresh, bright town-views drawn with a quick sense of French nature.


Nicolaas Bastert, born at Marseveen in 1854, is a pure landscape-painter, a pupil of the Antwerp and Amsterdam Academies and of Marinus Heyl. He formed himself more especially at the Hague, under the influence of the clarity of Mauve and the Marises, and has produced good work in a strong and restful manner: views on the Vecht, subjects taken from the Amsterdam water-ways, also old castles. He excels particularly in views of rivers and other waters.


Fredericus Jacobus van Rossum Duchatel, born at Leiden in 1856, attained fame as a painter, both at home and abroad, thanks to the natural facility of his talent, for he had no other masters than the painters and paintings he observed around him. He was known in particular for those Vecht views which Bastert rendered in a more pictorial fashion. He possesses a dexterity in painting with water-colour which would, I verily believe, enable him to set down a view of the Vecht on a brown-paper coffee-bag as easily as on a sheet of Whatman drawing-paper. From the beginning, this sort of water, with country-villas, summer-houses and barges along its banks, formed his favourite subject.


Jacobus Simon Hendrik Kever, born in Amsterdam in 1854, is a pupil of P. F. Greive, but soon began to follow in the footsteps of Albert Neuhuijs. He appears to belong to those painters who, endowed with a good palette and an easy method of painting, require another's formula in order to be able to express themselves. And often our Amsterdam Kever paints excellent Neuhuijs pictures, notable for good workmanship and a fine composition.


Tony Lodewijk George Offermans, born in 1854 at the Hague, paints shop-interiors, somewhat in the style of the Hague school with an admixture of the earlier Mesker, well-painted pieces which have a merit of their own, thanks to the capital workmanship and the faithful rendering of the types represented. He is a pupil of Blommers and, indirectly, of Artz; and, what is more, he is the son of our greatest lyrical singer, Mrs. S. Offermans-van Hove, who came of a family that has always produced painters and musicians.


The portrait-painters of this period were Thérèe Schwartze, bom in Amsterdam in 1852, and Pieter de Josselin de Jong, bom at St. Oedenrode in 1861. Strictly speaking, neither of them belongs to the Hague school; but they accompany this earlier period, as it were, as its official portrait-painters and must needs be reckoned with it, although they have been surpassed in power of expression by a later generation. Thérèse Schwartze is not only the most widely-known Dutch woman-painter of the last thirty years, or even of the whole of the nineteenth century, but she is to be credited with the fact that, at a time when portrait-painting, notwithstanding a few masterstrokes of Jozef Israëls, had practically fallen into decadence, she honoured her father's tradition as a free art, not devoid of fantasy. She is a born painter, whose fluent modelling seems to be something quite her own, and, although draughtsmanship is not her strong point, although her faces could not withstand the criticism of an academic expert, although - true woman that she is - she occasionally enlarges the eyes, reduces the mouths, refines the finger-tips of her sitters, she has sometimes produced portraits, swiftly seized in a few days' sittings, of such great excellence that we come to know the originals better through them. Of this first period, the portraits of Mr. Frederik Muller and of Mr. Toewater, the advocate, are doubtless the most powerful. The whole construction of the first, the heavy head, shaded by a soft black hat with a broad brim, lighted with Rembrandt effects, brisk in colour, excellent in attitude, square and stately, points to the quickness of comprehension which is one of this painter's foremost qualities.


Thérèse Schwartze is a woman and her womanly intuition led her to woman's domain and to the use of a material in which womanly intuition rather than practical knowledge points the way. She began to produce pastel portraits in 1885 and soon achieved technical perfection, particularly in the modelling of the face, which is more natural and simple, at least in so far as regards the portraits of women, in this medium than in oils. And, whereas, before, she was reproached with being able to paint only men's portraits, that is to say character-portraits, since this period she has shown, in a series of charming portraits of women and children, that pastel is a very beautiful medium in which to make the fleeting, evanescent, pale qualities of a woman's face tell against the brilliancy of the white silks or muslins in which she prefers to array her sitters. Of these portraits, perhaps that of the Baroness Michiels van Verduijnen is, as regards both composition and exquisiteness of colouring, the most elegant, the most mondain portrait painted of late in our country, while the likeness has not suffered through the well-thought-out arrangement of the picture.


De Josselin de Jong received his first lessons from P. M. Slager, at 's-Hertogenbosch; afterwards he frequented the Antwerp Academy and completed his education in Rome. His training, like Thérèse Schwartze's, was quite foreign to the ideas existing at the Hague. And he excels rather as an academic draughtsman than as a powerful painter, so that it would appear as if the building up of a head or the oudine of a hand never cost him the slightest trouble. We do not find in his work the little defects which mark that of Miss Schwartze, nor, for that matter, her charm. He has painted a series of portraits, honest, free from exaggeration and soberly observed, which amply satisfy the general requirements. He has also painted horses ploughing, water-colours that often display great power and are original by reason of the stiff lines of the agricultural slopes of Limburg, a very happy subject, to which he afterwards added glimpses of the life of the foundries, which give occcision for forcible illustration-work rather than for a well-considered harmonious whole, although we are bound to admire his powers as a draughtsman when he represents his puddlers at work.


When we think of the Hague masters to whom this school owes its name, we realize that, sad though the fact may be, they too are subject to the universal law that the things of this earth de not endure. The first blow fell in February 1888, when Mauve died while the Hague painters were at the height of their productiveness. In the midst of his work, in the full flower of his life, he was snatched away, unexpectedly, from among that host of powerful masters. Bosboom died in 1890, Artz in 1892, Jacob Maris in 1899, Weissenbruch, Gabriël and Roggenbeek early in the twentieth century. The death of Jacob Maris in August 1899 was a blow from which the Hague school was never to recover. He had been a tower of strength to his juniors, a constant assistance, a helping hand; and his loss was irreparable.