The Masters of Past Time: Dutch and Flemish Painting from Van Eyck to Rembrandt

The Masters of Past Time: Dutch and Flemish Painting from Van Eyck to Rembrandt

The Masters of Past Time: Dutch and Flemish Painting from Van Eyck to Rembrandt

The Masters of Past Time: Dutch and Flemish Painting from Van Eyck to Rembrandt

Excerpt

Brussels, 6 July 1875

I am here to see Rubens and Rembrandt in their own country and at the same time the Dutch School in its natural setting. It is a setting that never changes, with its life on the farms and the sea, its dunes, pasture-lands, huge clouds and fine-drawn horizons. You will find there two quite distinct arts, so remarkable in their completeness and independence of each other, their brilliance and fascination, as to make an equal demand upon the studies of the philosopher, the historian and the painter. Indeed, the only critic to do them justice would be one who combined the qualities of these three characters in himself, and with two of them I have nothing in common. As for the third, the painter, had he only the slightest sense of perspective, he would cease to have any significance in the presence of the very obscurest master of these well-favoured countries.

I am going to visit the art-galleries, but shall not describe them in detail. I shall pause before certain people, but without narrating their lives or making a catalogue of their works, even such works as have been preserved by their countrymen. I shall describe, exactly as they appear to my mind, so far as I can grasp them, certain physiognomic traits of their genius or talent. I shall not approach any far-reaching issues: I shall avoid the abstruse and obscure. The art of painting, when all is said, is but the art of expressing the invisible by means of the visible: its paths, great or small, are sown with problems which we may legitimately examine for ourselves as Truths, but which it is well to leave in their native darkness as Mysteries. I shall merely describe, in the presence of certain pictures, the effects of surprise, pleasure, astonishment, and no less exactly of disappointment, which they happened to cause me. In so doing, I shall be only describing truthfully the quite unimportant impressions of a pure dilettante.

I warn you then to expect no method of any sort or continuity in these pages. If you find in them many gaps, many preferences and . . .

Author Advanced search

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.