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The Dutch School

The Art Of Painting - The Dutch School - 2, a brief series of articles on the art of painting and drawing
 
 
The grisaille composition of "Christ before Pilate" gives a clue to the first laying in. We have now to consider for the following stage the nature of the grey in the legs and head. Extract from them the warm tones and we shall get it. There is a cooler -note in the half-tone under the breasts ; with such a grey, and a loaded varnish white, in a full brush, we should paint the shoulders and breast, and the chemise with a very liquid white played wet into a greyer ground, aided with touches of the palette knife ; and then the shadows of the background fairly transparently. Over the whole, when dry, float a golden glaze which should give us some of the qualities of this gem. It is to the varnish glazes that much of its liquidity is due.
The small monochrome of a " Crucifixion " has great charm. " The Flight into Egypt " is a slightly tinted monochrome, like several small religious subjects in Munich, which are practically monochromes, with but a few positive colour glazes.
The Jewish Merchant" is of the firmer type of workmanship, with a rare subtlety of modelling in the head. With your half-closed eyes, see how the undulations of its surface are effected by the delicate variations of its tones.
An enthusiastic sculptor, when an old man and
blind, was often led to that wonderful fragment
The Torso Belvedere " in the Vatican, the beauties of which, denied to his eyes, he would enjoy by caressing with his hands. So with this portrait of Rembrandt one longs to feel with one's fingers to test the apparent solidity of its planes, which were always the chief object of the painter's care ; in itself an excellent lesson, for in this way a comprehensive and large outlook is attained and preserved. Ever keep the big things in view. Simplicity is the greatest virtue, and the last achieved in any art.
" The Head of a Rabbi " is again in a more liquid manner. The transparent shadow on the forehead cast by the cap, the blue-grey touches beside the eye, the varnish impasto on the nose and cheek, the cool boundary of the beard against the face, the shadow of the nostril fused wet into the upper lip, are, among many others, qualities of this masterpiece to revel in.
The virility of Rembrandt, with his full loadings and broken colour, was something of a shock to his contemporaries, who prized most the suave surfaces to which they were habituated. This looseness became accentuated as he advanced in years, and to a criticism of it the master retorted that he was a painter, not a dyer. At this stage the portrait of an old man with a grey beard and his own with a turban were done.
The foreheads are in full light, for he is striving now for greater brilliancy. We see the hard, stiff white through which the firm brush is ploughed ; and always the luscious silver-grey of the underground, which is sometimes, as in the beard of the old man with the red cap, liquidly scumbled in the after stage, the broken glazes finding their way in and around the furrows made by the brush.
REMBRANDT, A JEWISH MERCHANT. National Gallery. A perfect example of solid modelling produced by subtle variations of tone.
REMBRANDT
A JEWISH MERCHANT
National Gallery
A perfect example of solid modelling produced by subtle variations of tone.

But the craftsmanship in these is so fine, the modelling so just, the hand so assured, and the surface actually so beautiful, that the centuries have enhanced rather than detracted from their ripeness. Only in the hands of a transcendent genius is such free use of material, backed as it is with vast experience, made possible. The raw white loadings that are thrown at us now, as a make-believe for sunshine, and trowelled over the whole of a canvas, are not of the stuff that Rembrandts are made of. Nor do impastos answer their legitimate end, except as accents or rare variations from the general level, and then only in fitting proportion to the scale of a work in which they are used.' When wisely and discreetly left, the deposits of a real, not assumed enthusiasm, fired spontaneously in the warmth of production—then and then only, like the moving passion of the orator, they move us to a real admiration.


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