Century Magazine/Volume 49/Issue 5/Old Dutch Masters. Pieter de Hooch

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Century Mag Illuminated M de Hooch.png
uch of the meager information concerning Pieter de Hooch is doubtful. He appears to have been born either at Utrecht or Ouderschie, a suburb of Rotterdam, about the year 1632. In 1655 he became a member of the Painters’ Gild at Delft, but left that city in 1657 for either Haarlem or Amsterdam, and it is conjectured that he must have died soon after i681, as this date is the latest on his pictures. The greater part of the pictures (about a hundred) known to be by his hand are in private English collections.

Hooch is one of the most charming of the Dutch masters. He delights in giving us glimpses of the cheerful and peaceful aspect of the domestic life of the time. One might linger hours before his simple scenes with greatest delight without tiring of them, and wonder what it is that gives so mysterious a charm to his works. Much of the secret of his fascination is due to his wonderful feeling for light and shade, and his refined sensitiveness for values, though much more, no doubt, to the sweet contentment and love of home that must have characterized a gentle and refined nature. A man must paint what he is. Hooch is a poet of rare and delicate fiber. No other master can compare with him in the representation of the poetry of light, and in that marvelous brilliancy and clearness with which he calls it forth in various distances till the background is reached, which is generally illumined by a fresh beam.

"The Buttery," which I have engraved, is in the Ryks Museum at Amsterdam, and ranks among the finest examples of Hooch, and nothing, surely, could be more delightful. The action of the servant as she presents the jug to the child to sip is expressive of gentleness and endearment; and what could be more charming than the glimpse of the inside room, with its picture, and the casement, and the cushioned chair, and the court beyond in sunlight? How bright and sunny and joyful all this is! It is full of the sentiment of home. Hooch’s pictures are never very large; this one measures 25¾ inches high by 23½ inches wide. There are other wonderful works by Hooch in the the Ryks Museum. The Louvre also possesses a rare gem by this master known as "A Dutch Interior," representing a richly decorated room in which, by the side of a sculptured fireplace, a group is engaged at cards. The rich chamber is flooded with mellow light, which is reflected from the golden stamped leather of the walls, and a charming comfort and lovely mystery pervade. Yet, full as it seems of light, much is kept out by the heavy curtains beyond the card-players, near which a loving couple snatch a stolen opportunity for communing. A page enters noiselessly from another room with his salver, glass, and flask of wine.

"The Butterfly." By Pieter de Hooch.
The Butterfly