« PreviousContinue »
painter, adopted the same subjects as Vander Heyden, not as a copyist or imitator, and was very successful in the line of his adoption. No doubt he studied the style of his predecessor, but it was with the eye of a painter, or as a scholar would that of a favourite author, for the purpose of marking his beauties, or avoiding, if such appeared, his defects. His views are selected with taste; he exhibits great attention to detail; uses a rich impasto of colour, and produces breadth of effect in his buildings. The figures are his own, and do credit to his talents in that department. It is desirable at all times to avoid, if possible, detrimental comparison, and especially when it does not appear that there was intentional imitation; it is, however, incumbent to say that his skies and foliage are defective, and in their colouring crude and repulsive. It is useless to speculate on what effect time may produce on his pictures ; at present they are valuable as his own; whether they will hereafter be called Vander Heyde's must be left to posterity: worse appropriations have been made. He was born at Utrecht in 1778, and was living within the last twenty years.
ISAAC OUWATER, born at Amsterdam in 1747, painted similar views to the preceding of various cities in Holland. He treats his subjects very agreeably, with a neat pencil, correct perspective, animated figures, and good relief of light and shade. His colouring is not so transparent as might be wished, but it is by no means heavy. His views of streets in large cities are particularly good, and have an air of bustle from the number of carriages and pedestrians introduced. A beauty in his pictures is the reflection of the trees and houses in the Grachts, (street canals,) which has quite an illusory effect. He died at Amsterdam in 1793.
Paul CONSTANTINE LA FARGUE painted views at the Hague, similar to those above described, and others in the vicinity of that city. His oil pictures, though faithful representations of the buildings, and well furnished with figures, are not esteemed for transparency in the colouring; his drawings, however, are clear, and have a beautiful effect. He died in 1782.
· The foregoing are the principal analogists of Vander Heyden, of what may be termed the olden time, but there
are many excellent Dutch artists of the present day who are pursuing the same objects of study with the happiest results.
PETER PAUL RUBENS. In a work like the present it is not to be expected that a detailed account of such an artist as Rubens can be given ; and as several memoirs of him have been written by various hands, and all the particulars of his artistic life recorded in one or other of them, it must suffice to refer the curious inquirer to those more extensive accounts for minute in. formation. Among these may be named Michel's Life of him, Mr. W. H. Carpenter's “ Pictorial Notices of Flemish Painters," the memoir prefixed to the account of his works in Smith's “ Catalogue Raisonné," and the condensed biography in the enlarged edition of Bryan's “ Dictionary of Painters and Engravers.”
It is almost impossible for one who has a high feeling for the art of painting in its poetical and historical excursions, to enter into a discussion of the merits of Rubens without running into hyperbolical panegyric. It is equally impossible to confine his merit to any particular department of the art, for he reigns triumphant in all. Everything conceivable submits to the capacity of his mind, every object to the mastery of his hand and the facility of his pencil. He ranges uncontrolled in the regions of fiction, the records of history, the humanities of life, and the amenities and sublimities of nature. With power of mind so extensive, and with a hand and pencil so obedient, it is not to be wondered at that his works are numerous; but, on the other hand, it is not to be supposed that all attributed to him were actually by his unassisted pencil. In large works the conception, the design, and the ordonnances were his, and sometimes a portion of the execution; the progression in the details and subordinate parts devolved on his disciples or coadjutors; and these, though masters in the art, willingly followed his direction : the finishing he reserved for himself. This, according to his owl acknowledgment, was his course of proceeding in works of magnitude, and he considered them as much his own as if entirely executed by his hand. To endeavour to describe his style and mode of painting would be to enter into all the
technicalities of the art, and this can only be done by a practical painter, endowed with the genius and knowledge of Rubens himself, to make them clearly understood. One of the best modes an amateur can adopt to arrive at some degree of acquaintance with his handling, is to study the sketches he made for the guidance of his pupils, or for his own particular use. These have a certain freedom and fire that excites admiration, and a boldness of outline and decision of stroke that at once pronounce the master.
Among his numerous disciples and coadjutors, several were employed, for their ability, to paint the landscape backgrounds of his pictures, and occasionally the entire landscape; but it is not to be supposed that such was always the case. In landscape, as in every other department of the art, Rubens was a perfect master. He did not enter into minute details of objects, but represented nature in her broad and general appearance, with sufficient indications to mark her different phases. It is not in her placid aspects that he most excels. His active genius delighted in difficulties, in the war of elements and their phenomena, as though he would “ride in the whirlwind and direct the storm," suiting it to the object he had in view, and harmonizing in its turbulence what was discordant, by the magical power of his pencil. The colouring of Rubens has been the universal theme of admiration; Fuseli, who in his own productions gave very few illustrations of his knowledge of that captivating power, felt the full force of it when describing its effect in the works of Rubens. He concludes his ninth lecture thus: “But whenever a subject comes genially within the vortex of his manner, such as that of the gallery of the Luxembourg, it then is not only characteristically excellent, but includes nearly a superhuman union of powers. In whatever light we consider that astonishing work, whether as a series of the most sublime conceptions, regulated by an uniform comprehensive plan, or as a system of colours and tones, exalting the subject, and seconded by magic execution, whatever may be its Venetian or Flemish flaws of mythology and Christianity, ideal and contemporary costume promiscuously displayed, it leaves all plans of Venetian allegory far behind, and rivals all their execution. If it be not equal in simplicity, or emulate in characteristic dignity, the plans of Michelangelo and Raphael, it excels them in the display of that magnificence which no modern eye can separate from the idea of majesty."
Rubens was born at Cologne in 1577, and died at Antwerp in 1640. For a very copious account of his works, the amateur is referred to the second volume of Smith's Catalogue Raisonné; and for ready access to examples he may visit the National Gallery, where there are several deserving of special examination; he may also obtain permission, on the usual conditions, of entering the mansions of the nobility and gentry, who possess some still finer specimens, and may thus form a pretty accurate acquaintance with the master's real works.
COADJUTORS OF RUBENS. FRANCIS SNYDERS, one of the ablest coadjutors of Rubens, was born at Antwerp in 1579. On quitting the school of Henry van Balen, he followed the bent of his own genius in painting fruit and objects of still life; subsequently he attached himself to the study of wild ani. mals, in which he became eminent, and in that department so useful to Rubens. He particularly excelled in painting wild boar and bear hunts, in which he depicted, with the greatest truth, the ferocity of those animals, and the courage and fury of the dogs; nor was he ineffective in that of the lion, though it has been said that therein he received some assistance from Rubens. There are, however, several pictures to which he has put his name, where that animal is introduced in violent action, that exhibit neither assistance nor defect. It is very probable that in compositions avowedly by Rubens, in which the animals are by Snyders, the great man would introduce touches of his own for purposes necessary to the harmony of the picture. Snyders is acknowledged to be the greatest master of the Flemish school in painting dead game and fruit; his larders are voluptuous treats for a gourmand. There are many imitations of this excellent artist by inferior hands, some of which are by his pupils, Jurian Jacobs and Peter Boel, and are constantly imposed by unscrupulous dealers on the inwary as the works of Snyders. This estimable artist died in 1657.
JAN WILDENS, born at Antwerp in 1580, or 1584, (for writers differ,) was an able and almost necessary coadjutor to Rubens, in painting the landscapes of many of the pictures in which that great artist exhibits his powers as an animal painter. The great skill of Wildens in landscape painting enabled him to meet the wishes of Rubens, and in the freedom of touch and the propriety of colouring they so nearly approached, that the whole appears to be the work of one hand. Wildens afforded the same assistance to Snyders, Diepenbeck, Langen Jan, and other painters of the school. He had the skill and judgment to adapt his landscapes to the subjects to be introduced. For those of the chase the scene is wild or sterile, with a bright sky, or contrast of sunshine and shade ; if for a poetic fable, the groves of Arcady, with the luxuriant vine decorating a bower, are made subservient to his brother painter's fancy. The talent of Wildens was not entirely confined to landscape painting, though therein lies his peculiar excellence: he painted some historical and other subjects with no mean applause. His death is placed in 1644.
LUCAS VAN UDEN, born at Antwerp in 1595, was instructed early in the art, his father being a painter, and, by constant study and attention to nature, he became one of the best landscape painters of the period. Rubens, whose generosity of disposition always led him to encourage young artists of talent, soon discovered the merits of Van Uden, and so highly did he appreciate his ability, that he employed him to paint the landscapes for several of his finest works. The aptness of Van Uden is seen in the close resemblance his landscapes bear to those really painted by Rubens, and the harmonious accordance that prevails in the handling and colour, and in the union of their subjects. His landscapes generally represent hilly scenery, diversified with wood and water, with partial gleams of sunshine, or the full blaze of that luminary garnishing the clouds in his descent. In the foliage of his trees the touch is free and tender; his colouring on all occasions transparent; and when employed on the back-grounds or other parts of landscapes for subjects by Rubens, he imitated the broad bold stroke of his principal with admirable success. The almost constant association he had with that master of the pencil, imbued him thoroughly