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Battles and Skirmishes, including Encampments, Sutlers' Booths,
THE intention of the author is to facilitate the endeavours of the inexperienced amateur of paintings in acquiring a knowledge of the works of the Dutch and Flemish masters. In order to do this effectively, it has been deemed necessary to commence with a synoptical view of those painters who are universally acknowledged to be the principals of the schools of Flanders and Holland, their scholars, imitators, and such others as have analogy to them in subjects and modes of composition. The advantage which the amateur will derive from this plan of proceeding is, that by being at once introduced to the great masters, and having their excellences brought under his notice, he will form a correct judgment of what is considered the beautiful in painting, according to the subject in which each master is acknowledged to be eminent. Next, by having his attention directed to their scholars and imitators, he will be enabled to discriminate their differences from the models they followed, and be guarded against hastily adopting their productions as the works of the principals. Many of those named as scholars in the first instance, will be found subsequently as heads of schools, varying in a considerable degree from their original manner, and giving rise to new classes of followers and imitators; some of the qualities of the primitive soil being still distinguishable in their works.
The landscape painters stand first in order, not as being superior to the other classes, but because their merits, generally speaking, are more obvious, and more readily comprehended by every one who looks upon nature, and possesses a mind qualified to entertain and enjoy her beauties. Few indeed, with the least cultivation, but feel the influence of
green fields, waving woods, flowing streams, and sunny skies, and other adjuncts that contribute to form a natural landscape. Among the Dutch painters in this department, Ruisdael, Hobbema, Wynants, and Hackaert, are pre-eminent. Cattle and figures in a landscape, devoid of the ornaments of nature which these great masters have embodied, would lose a great portion of the interest they excite, and pall upon the general eye. On the other hand, what liveliness is communicated to the spectator by cattle and figures in the charming landscapes of Berchem and Both, Pynaker and Karel du Jardin, Adrian van de Velde, Philip Wouwerman, Albert Cuyp, Jan Asselyn, and other distinguished cattle painters! Paul Potter excites admiration by his cattle alone.
Glancing for a moment at the school of Rubens, and leaving it for future and serious consideration, the amateur may pass to the compositions of figures by Teniers, Ostade, Jan Steen, and Adrian Brauwer. In the pictures by these masters are seen skilful compositions, rich and harmonious colouring, and masterly execution, not excelled by the greatest historical painters. They are to be considered for their artistic qualities, disregarding in many instances their choice of subject; the subject may be termed low, but their skill invests it with such charms that the connoisseur feels compelled to applaud the execution. Jan Steen's pictures, however, possess still higher qualities, though he is sometimes amenable to censure for indelicacy.
We pass from these free and spirited painters to those whose chief merit consists in what is termed high finishing, in representing objects with the greatest accuracy, whatever those objects may be, and in composing them in such a manner that, while they excite surprise, they gratify curiosity and satisfy the judgment: Gerard Dou and a long train of followers come under this head. The wonderful works of these masters will demand the utmost attention of the amateur, not only for their beauty of execution, but also for the peculiar characteristics of each, in order to avoid mistakes, induced by many similarities among them. Acknowledged connoisseurs have been frequently deceived in thus mistaking the work of one eminent master for that of another of equal reputation. But the mistake is still more likely to occur when a talented scholar has successfully copied a picture
of his master, and imitated his manner of penciling, at the time perhaps only for improvement, but which has gained a character from being found in a collection of importance. The names of Gerard Dou, Francis Mieris, Gabriel Metsu, Gerard Terburg, Gaspar Netscher, and Godfrey Schalcken, are all liable to misapplication in this way, by those who are not thoroughly acquainted with their authentic works; nor have those of Slingelandt, William Mieris, Eglon Vander Neer, Philip van Dyck, and Ary de Voys escaped, though the two last have sometimes usurped those of the former: it is well when it is no worse. Some clue to the discovery may be obtained by comparing the known works of the scholar with those of the master under whom he studied, and observing in what particulars he deviates from the original manner, and how much of his own prevails in his imitations of other artists.
The same observation will apply to imitations of the works of other masters remarkable for high finishing in painting figures, such as Adrian Vander Werf and Poelemburg, the latter of whom had many followers. Some copies of Vander Werf are not so easily detected, but they are not numerous; those done by Seydelmann, in bistre, approach nearest to the originals. The imitators of Poelemburg have not been very successful; they copied his manner, but his delicacy of forms and grace of action were beyond their skill: Vertangen and Jan Vander Lys, in their colouring and penciling, sometimes try the acumen of a connoisseur.
In flower and fruit painting, Jan van Huysum is followed by a long train of imitators, copyists, and analogists, but has no equal as such; Rachel Ruysch alone rivals him, though in a style of her own, which no succeeding painter has had the temerity to imitate. Numerous Dutch and Flemish artists, however, stand very high in this class, particularly John David de Heem, Daniel Seghers, Abraham Mignon, and some of more modern date.
William van de Velde and Ludolph Backhuysen take precedence in the class of Marine painters of the Dutch School, by universal consent. It seems so natural to the artists of Holland to paint sea views, either storms or calms, that few or none can be ranked as copyists or imitators of others; many of them are excellent in these representations,