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GIOVANNI DELLA Vite delighted, after the manner of Bamboccio, to diversify his pictures with hordes of beggars, groups of gypseys and hunters; and in exhibiting the agreeable variety of pastoral life. This painter is said to have once drawn the outlines of a picture in his sleep. The muse of Milton, in the same manner, dictated to him slumbering ; while Maignanus of Toulouse perfected theorems; and Cædmon, the Saxon poet, wrote verses, while they slept. HOBBIMA of Antwerp may be styled the “painter of solitude;” since he introduces but few figures into his landscapes. Nature was his mistress ; and he copied her with precision. A perfect master of perspective, whether he exhịbits the head of a river or a lake, a temple, a grotto, or a ruin, the eye is deceived in a very agreeable manner.
In the knowledge of perspective, the Chinese, as well as the ancient masters, are said to have been strikingly deficient; yet, it has been asserted, by several intelligent travellers, that the art of delineating landscape is in higher perfection than that of history or portrait in China ; while, on the contrary, though many treatises on the subject were extant in the time of Tully,–particularly those written by Agatharcus, Anaxagoras, Heliodorus, and Germinus of Rhodes,—the Roman artists had made such little comparative progress, that their landscapes were greatly inferior to their portrait and historical designs. Perspective, however, was consulted in the coins of Tarsus : Quintilian says, that Zeuxis understood light and shade ; and Pliny mentions various subjects, which. it would have been impossible to have delineated, had the ancient painters been so entirely ignorant of lineal and aërial perspective, as some writers suppose a.
* La Chausse, speaking of the perspective of the Thermæ of Titus, says, “ Da questa pittura si cognosce che gli Antichi sono stati alfretanto infelici nella prospettiva, ch' eruditi nel disegno."-Pittur. Antich. p. 13. Several pictures, found at Herculaneum, place the knowledge of Roman artists in the science of perspective beyond a doubt. The curious reader may, however, consult with advantage Kircher's Ars magna Lucis et Umbræ. Rom. 1646, fol. a The works of M. Angelo, Raphael, &c., appear to me to have nothing of the picturesque; whereas Rubens and the Venetian painters may almost be said to have nothing else.—Sir Joshua Reynolds, in a letter to Mr. Gilpin, April 19, 1791. .
LOTEN painted in England and in Switzerland : and his genius led to the delineation of storms and waterfalls. BREUGhel studied his art among the mountains of the Tyrol: yet caprice attached him, principally, to the exhibition of the humorous and grotesque. His son, however, was so great a master in his art, that Rubens condescended to employ him, in touching his celebrated picture of the Terrestrial Paradise.
RUBENS excelled in the picturesque a ; but of his character, as a landscape painter, it is dangerous to say too much, and invidious to say too little. His merits have been overvalued by some, and underrated by others; according to the respective tastes and prejudices of his critics. He was, beyond all question, the most eminent of the Flemish school; and yet Algarotti is not wide of the truth, when he observes, that his compositions are not so rich, nor his touches so light, as those of Paul Veronese. Though more soft in his chiaro-oscuro than Caravaggio, he has less delicacy than Vandyke; and though more dazzling, yet has he less simplicity of design, and less truth and harmony of colouring, than Titian.
This artist was the favourite painter of the first Duke of Marlborough; who had eighteen of his best pieces. His largest picture exhibits a bird's eye view of an extensive country, which Walpole considers as containing in itself a perfect school for painters of landscape. It would form a pleasure of no common order, to compare his picture of the Deluge with that by Antoine Carrache; and both with the descriptions of Milton. Compared with Poussin, Rubens had a decided advantage; and their two pictures of the Deluge afford favourable occasions for comparison. He had a bold style of pencilling, peculiarly striking. He electrifies by his brilliancy; by the violence of his bursts ; and by that powerful decision of contrast, which, distinguishing Rembrandt and Spagniolet in the departments of portrait and history, gave occasion to Sir Joshua Reynolds to declare, that a single picture of Rubens were sufficient to illumine the darkest gallery in Europe. His style, however, though more striking for the moment, is yet far less permanently attractive than the magic wand of the mild and fascinating Claude:—the one having all the captivating character of elegy; the other all the fire, the strength, and transition of the lyric: Rubens being the Pindar of landscape ;-Claude the Simonides.
WATERLOO was a great admirer of woodland scenery. His trees are beautifully grouped. His subjects are lanes, copses, a river with cattle, cottages, a church, a bridge, or a ruin :but always a tree, and, for the most part, several. RUYSDAEL was an ardent lover of Nature, in her most beautiful and picturesque attitudes :-his woods, rivers, cottages, mills, and torrents, being scenes of reality, that had charmed his taste during his rural and extended rambles. His waterfalls are beautiful; and he never painted a picture without a river, or a pool of water, shaded by trees. GOYEN of Leyden excelled in rural and marine landscapes. Peasants at their labour animated the one ; fishermen drawing their nets enlivened the other. His subjects were well selected; the perspective was well managed ; and the whole indicated a lightness and a freedom of touch, which never failed to captivate. Being, however, too rapid a painter to be always a master, some of his pieces would scarcely do honour to the worst of his pupils. Many of this artist's pictures embody to the eye those forms in pastoral life, which Barthelemy describes so beautifully:exhibiting “shepherds, seated on a turf, on the brow of a hill, or beneath the shade of a tree, who sometimes tune their pipes to the murmurs of the waters ; and sometimes sing their loves, their innocent disputes, their flocks, and the enchanting objects by which they are surrounded.”
VAN OORT,— frequently celebrated above his merits,
derives his principal claim to the notice of posterity, from being the master of Jordaens and Rubens. He degraded his art by painting merely for wealth ; and corrupted his taste by the affectation of aspiring to have a manner of his own. He was ungrateful to Nature :—for though she had endowed him with a considerable share of talent, he presumed to neglect her; and would rather sketch from his own imagination, than take a lesson from the best study, she could any where present. To be an imitator of man shows a poverty of fancy, and serves to the degradation of genius; to imitate one's self is the essence of vanity, and one of the worst species of pedantry!
REMBRANDT's landscapes are such as might be expected from a Dutchman, who had never been out of his own country. In the wild and awful scenes of Switzerland, MEYER of Winterthur studied his fascinating profession. He seldom walked without his pencil ; and it were singular if the romantic scenes before him had not made him a master of his art.
MURANT of Amsterdam, being a disciple of WOUVERMANS —who introduced into his pieces some admirable subjects of hunting-acquired that harmony and brilliancy of colouring, by which his master was so eminently distinguished. He was a minute painter ;--minute even to tediousness :—yet his ruins and castles and villages are beautifully conceived, and naturally executed.
VROOM was made a painter of sea pieces in a singular manner. He had finished several scripture pieces, and was on his voyage from Holland to Spain, when he was wrecked upon the coast of Portugal. In this distress, he was relieved by several monks, who resided among the rocks. Having obtained refreshment, he went to Lisbon ; where a brother artist engaged him to paint the storm, he described in so lively a manner. This picture was executed so well, that a Portuguese nobleman gave him a high price for it; and this success flattered him so much, that, upon his return to Holland, he entirely devoted himself to marine landscape.
BACKHUYSEN of Embden was,-next to Vanderveldt,—the most eminent painter of marine landscapes. His storms are admirable. It was his practice to hire resolute and undaunted seamen to take him out in the midst of a tempest ; or at a time, when he knew it was approaching :—and being tied to the mainmast, he would, like Lamanon, contemplate, at leisure, the most awful and magnificent scene, it is possible to behold. In this perilous school he studied : the result was excellence. As to VANDERVELDT, he was so eminent in the delineation of marine perspectives, that he acquired the honour of being associated with Claude.
The paintings of ALBANO, as Malvasia says of him, breathe nothing but content and joy! His beautiful and virtuous wife, Doralice, was his model for graces and nymphs ; and his children sate for his cherubs and cupids a; in the drawing of which he had all the grace and elegance of Correggio. Gifted with a force of mind, that conquered every uneasy feeling, his pencil wafted him from Paphos to Cithera ; from the abodes of love and delight, to those of Apollo and the Muses.
A favourable opportunity occurs to the Parisian connoisseur, of comparing the relative merits of Albano, Breughel, and the Carrache, by examining the manner in which they have respectively treated the subject of the four elements, in their separate pictures, entitled L'Air, La Terre, L'Eau, and Le Feu.
BOURDON decorated his pieces with objects of Gothic architecture; Poussin, called the Raphael of France, with those of the Roman; BOUWER of Strasburgh with buildings near Frescati, Tivoli, and Albano. Loveliness prevailed in all the paintings of GASPAR Poussin: the scenes he delineates, therefore, are truly captivating in their effect. There is an air of lively tranquillity in some; of tranquil motion in others; and though the objects of architecture, he exhibits, are not equal
Felibien, tom. iii. p. 524. His best pieces are at Bologna.