페이지 이미지
[graphic][merged small]

By Elbert F. Baldwin

N the fourteenth of August last, at Antwerp, guests from all trie European academies of art, together with Belgian civil, military, and religious authorities, assembled in the Grande Place before the City Hall. They were there to hear a special performance on the famous carillon of bells in the tower of Notre-Dame, and to see a procession representing the progress of art through the ages. From the figures of the giant Antigonus and his wife, the traditional patrons of Antwerp, representations of Egyptian, Assyrian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Gothic, and Renaissance art-creative times passed in processional form. Last of all came the crowning feature of the w hole pageant, namely, the " Homage to Sir Anthony van Dyck ;" for all this celebration was to commemorate the three hundredth anniversary of the birth of the second of the two mighty painters whom Antwerp has given to the world. There he stood, that second one, in impersonation, preceded by a figure representing the Archduke Albert and the Infanta Isabella, his protectors; by one representing Rubens, his master, and by those of many of the personages who, through his portraits, have become immortal in art, if not in history—Charles I., Marie Henriette, and their children, Marie de' Medicis, the Earls of Strafford and Arundel, Marie Louise of Tessis, the Marquises of Brignole and Spinola, Cardinal Bentivoglio, Francois de Moncada, and others. Sir Anthony rode surrounded by honor-guards, each representing a city where his best-known pictures are to be found—Antwerp, Brussels, London, Paris, Madrid, Genoa, Florence, Munich, Dresden, Berlin, Kassel, The Hague. The great memorial of the anniversary, however, is an exhibition.still open, of the master's works. For this purpose several hundred canvases, many of them of enormous value, have been taken from museums, churches, and private galleries throughout Europe and gathered in the old Flemish capital, always the home both of commerce and of culture, where, three centuries ago, Anthony van Dyck first saw the light of day.

When he was fifteen years old, he entered Rubens's studio. He made such progress there that before he was twenty he was not only working on pictures which the master gave out as his own, but had done such noteworthy composition as to cause his enrollment as a master in the Guild of St. Luke. This Guild, already two centuries old, named after the artist-Evangelist, was the great instigator and benefactor of Flemish art. The young Van Dyck thus became himself a master while working under one. It was an unheard-of honor to one of such tender age. Rubens was too great a man, nevertheless, to have any jealousy of his pupil as a possible rival. On the contrary, he insisted on procuring a commission for him from the Jesuits, in connection with his own work, to paint forty pictures for them. In the year when the Pilgrim Fathers sailed from the Low Countries, the name of Anthony van Dyck

began to be known in those countries as that of another Rubens. An Antwerp picture-dealer wrote to the Earl of Arundel in England that the new painter's works were gaining almost as much esteem as that enjoyed by those of the master himself. Nevertheless, it was that same kind master who presented his pupil to Lord Arundel, through whom access was later obtained to the English monarch, and to honors never before paid to any painter. At the end of his apprenticeship Rubens gave the finest horse in his stable to Van Dyck, who, in return, presented to his elder three canvases which had attracted the latter's special commendation. One of them, a " Christ Seized upon trie Mount of Olives," henceforth occupied the place of honor in the chief room in Rubens's house. From association with such a master, his pupil thus gained, not only invaluable technical instruction, but also a generously given start in life. Furthermore, both derived a certain mental stimulus from the similitude of their education, tastes, and ideas, their unremitting labors and their material successes. In truth, the pupil's genius merited protection and patronage. If Shakespeare nodded occasionally, so did Rubens; but even in the younger Fleming's early pictures it is hard to find an awkward or unnatural attitude or an expressionless feature.

Acting on the master's sound advice, his pupil went to Italy to study and to work. The influence of the years spent there is noticeable in the modification of an over-great Rubens leaning. The pictures painted before and after that period have greater mellowness and depth of color. Though he lived in Venice, Florence, Rome, and Palermo, most of Van Dyck's work was done at Genoa, and is still there in the splendid old palaces of the Balbi, Brignole, Durazzo, Raggi, and Spinola families. Van Dyck's portraits of members of these houses combine a Flemish strength and energy with an Italian stateliness and elegance—Rubens and Titian in one.

After some years in Italy, Van Dyck returned to his home city, where, by Rubens's departure as Ambassador to England and Spain, the young artist found a clear field. His fame now extended over Europe. He worked not only at Antwerp, but at Brussels and at The

Hague. Once, when residing in Holland, he went to Haarlem to call on Frans Hals, whom he had never met. Not finding the great Dutch artist at home, he sent word to him that a stranger wished to have his portrait painted. When Hals appeared, the Fleming said that he had but two hours to spare. He asked if Hals could make an attempt in that time. The Dutchman was, of course, equal to the task, and finished the picture. The apparently astonished stranger remarked that "Portrait-painting seems a simple thing. I will try it myself." Thereupon he began to sketch, taking Hals as his subject. He had not proceeded very far, however, in his masterly precision, before the Dutchman cried out: "You are Anthony van Dyck I No one else could do what you have done."

That judgment was not alone Hals's. It has been said that the head of Richardot (in the Louvre at Paris), painted at this time, is as strong as any in portraiture, unless it be that of Cornelius van der Gheest (in the National Gallery, London). It might also be added that, of its kind, the portrait of the youthful William II. of Nassau (in the Hermitage at St. Petersburg) has never been equaled, even by Gainsborough with his " Blue Boy."

Anthony van Dyck is not generally thought of as an etcher, but he showed noteworthy talent in this domain also. One finds astonishing workmanship in the series of grisaille portraits of his eminent contemporaries, especially of fellow-artists, which were published as engravings by Martin van den Enden. With wonderful expressiveness, Van Dyck etched the heads in some two dozen of the plates; and the prints in their early state, before any addition of gravers' line-work, are highly prized, both for their historical worth and also as an evidence of the characteristics of an artist's real heyday, when, for the most part, he was still unconscious, unhampered, unflattered, and hence uncon ventional. Some geniuses " arrive "early, and the sketches, etchings, and oil work of this period of a particular genius show him at the speedily reached summit of his powers.

Probably by reason of inducements offered to him in advance, our artist, now thirty-three years old, decided to settle in England; at all events, he was received

[graphic][merged small][merged small]

he was also, what every portrait-painter should be, a psychologist. He knew how to win all hearts, but he knew as well how to dip beneath the surface of things. Hence some of his portraits were not only realities but prophecies.

Among the best works of his English period are the most popular of all his pictures, namely, those of the King's children. Visitors to the Dresden, Berlin, London, and Turin galleries are familiar with these; that in the last-named city is an especially good example. It shows three of the children, Prince Charles (later Charles II.), Princess Mary (later wife of William II. of Orange), and the Duke of York (later James II.). Prince Charles, about five years old, stands at the left in a lorg. stiff scarlet frock embroidered

with silver lace. His right hand rests on the head of a brown spaniel. Princess Mary ■ comes next, in a white satin dress which, like the robe of her brother Charles, seems, to more modern notions of dress, out of keeping with a child's age. Lastly comes the charming little Duke of York, in another stiff silk frock—blue this time— and holding an apple in his hand.

During the remaining years of his life Sir Anthony van Dyck painted the portrait of nearly every prominent person connected with the English court. No artist was ever so sought after or received so many orders. A visit to his studio was a regular part of the programme of the fashionables of Charles's time. One reason for such signal popularity and success may be found in the chagrinful consciousness that in

[graphic][merged small]
« 이전계속 »