MEINDERT HOBBEMA 1638 (?)-1709 Dutch School
CLAUDE GELLÉE (called LORRAIN) 1600-1682 Classical School of France
THE village of Middelharnis is one of the places that lay claim to be the birthplace of Hobbema, the town of Koeverden and the cities of Haarlem and Amsterdam being the others. This picture, The Avenue, gives us a clear idea of the approach to it, as it appeared in 1689, when Hobbema is supposed to have painted it. It is a bit of portraiture of nature, whereas Claude picture -- you might guess it from the title, Landing of Cleopatra at Tarsus -- illustrates the use of nature to build up a classic composition; the borrowing from many sources, and the arrangement of the details to produce a scene which the artist's imagination has conceived to be ideally beautiful.
We ought to be able to enjoy the one and the other, but we do not feel toward both in the same way. It is very probable that we shall begin by preferring the Claude. If so, it is largely because the lines and masses of its composition are more seductive. The hulls, masts, and spars of the shipping on one side balance the lines of the architecture on the other, and between them is a gently dipping curve of faint forms, which separate the luminous quiet of the open sky from the glittering move-