Boston Painters and Paintings
AT the time when Allston and his contemporaries represented native art, it was still the fashion to know and admire the old masters. France had not been discovered, so far as art was concerned. When Boston boys were able to go abroad for study, they went to England and Italy, and, a few years later, to Düsseldorf. In the twenties, “ a young artist going to Europe ” offered for sale at Cunningham’s auction rooms, at the corner of Federal and Milk streets, a collection of pictures which comprised A Woody Landscape, A Wild Landscape, A Grand Romantic Landscape, and A View in Venice, in Imitation of the Manner of Canaletto. The very titles suggest to the mind’s eye what these compositions were, and are in themselves an interesting indication of the prevailing taste sixty years ago. Was not the Grand Romantic Landscape of an umber tone ; and is it not morally certain that a babbling green stream, a beetling brown cliff, a waterfall, a ruined castle, and some cottony cumuli, with an opaque forest, peasants, cattle, horsemen, and boats, were the elements constituting the scene? In a word, was it not a warmed-over imitation of Claude, of Ruysdael, and of Thomas Cole ? After Cunningham’s rooms became the Corinthian Hall Gallery, about 1830, many picture sales occurred there, and it need astonish no one to find in the catalogues the most comprehensive lists of works by the old masters. Pictures by the great Belgians and Dutchmen were as plentiful as Corots in the auction sales of to-day. The formality of an interrogation point or of an “ attributed to ” was neglected. After the perusal of a catalogue of the collection of oil-paintings “ lately arrived in this country from the galleries of Milan, Venice, etc.” (1831), the reader wonders if any works by the old masters are left in those cities. A remarkable preface, full of rodomontade, explains how it is the most natural thing in the world that a Paul Veronese should have found its way to these shores, accompanied by choice specimens of the handiwork of Velasquez, Rubens, Tintoret, Guido, Murillo, Poussin, Ruysdael, Carlo Dolce, Giulio Romano, Gerard Dow, Pietro da Cortona, Bassano, Netscher, Mengs, Le Bran, and Backhuysen. It is not fair to say that none of these were authentic works, but it is entirely safe to assume that most of them were counterfeits; and surely no one would have dared to offer such wares to any but a very ignorant and isolated community. It was between 1820 and 1850 that our fathers covered their parlor walls with those dreadful Salvator Rosas, Caraccis, Jan Steens, Ostades, and even Raphaels and Correggios, in the genuineness of which they placed such implicit and touching confidence. Even later, many a collection of old masters was sold at auction by Beebe in Tremont Street, where Claudes were often knocked down in pairs, at six to eight dollars each, shining like plate-glass, under a thick new coat of coach varnish, which must have suffered a sad sea-change before very long. Next after the Claudes, Murillos were the most numerous goods in these sales. There have been, from first to last, enough Murillos in Boston to fill a room in the Prado. The history of some of these canvases is curious, but the great majority of them were no doubt brought home from Cadiz by Yankee sea-captains, who were better judges of navigation than of painting. Occasionally, when some old gentleman has died, and his books and pictures are to be sold, specimens of these forlorn old pictorial humbugs turn up at Leonard’s, often in a sad state for want of varnish or by reason of too much of it, and are sold for a song : herein is one of the many disheartening evidences of the skepticism of our time.
Nevertheless there were some genuine old masters among the pictures fetched hither. One of the best and most important of these was a large Wedding Feast in Holland, by Gilles van Tilburg, a painter comparatively little known, which was brought to this country about 1840, and which is still in the possession of a Boston family. It contains about sixty figures, and is in the manner of Brauwer and of Teniers. At the right rise the massive gray walls of a tall stone mansion, from the porch and windows of which several spectators survey the gay scene of merrymaking in the grounds beneath, where the bride, the groom, and their friends joyously celebrate the day by eating, drinking, and conversing in groups about a long table loaded with good things. The figures are painted with such great skill and honesty that each one of them seems to have a special identity and a special interest. So also with the accessories : the very tables, chairs, benches, pots, pans, and dishes, the suggestive and impressive reach of landscape beyond the wedding party, which forms a superb background, — all this is executed so perfectly, so completely, and with so much gusto that it gives instant pleasure to look at it. The work has, in their highest state of development, the solid merits of its school. Tilborg was born in 1625, at Brussels, and was therefore a contemporary of the greatest genre masters of the Netherlands. The circumstances of his life are unknown, but his rare pictures are in the galleries of Dresden, Vienna, Copenhagen, the Hague, and St. Petersburg. Nagler says that he was a follower of Brauwer, but did not equal that master’s animation and intelligence. Descamps mentions as an excellent picture a Drinking Fête of Peasants, formerly in the Vence cabinet. In the collection of Live d’Epinay is his Bean King, which is called a chef d’œuvre. Whatever Tilborg’s reputation may be among European amateurs, the picture I have described is truly “ ein Bild der guten alten Zeit,” and a sterling specimen of the greatest school of executants that has existed. In Boston, only the Metsu and the Teniers in the Museum can be mentioned as comparable with it in its own province of art, and both of these are on a smaller scale. The other Dutch and Flemish old masters represented by authentic works in private collections are Rubens, Rembrandt, Hals, Metsu, Ostade, Dow, Potter, and Teniers. Of the other schools, there are genuine paintings by Titian, Tintoret, Giordano, Il Bassano, Guercino, and Andrea del Sarto ; Watteau, Greuze, and Boucher ; Hogarth, Reynolds, Turner, and Constable ; and Murillo. Although most of these are of secondary importance, they offer the best testimony of their authenticity on their own faces. The most celebrated of them all is Turner’s little canvas commonly known as the Slave Ship. This brilliant painting caused a prodigious sensation when it was brought to Boston in 1876, and exhibited in the Museum of Fine Arts. It had been shown to the London public in the Royal Academy exhibition of 1840, where it was catalogued as “ Slaver throwing overboard the dead and dying. Typhoon coming on.” Ruskin made it famous by writing a description which matched the painting in the brilliancy of its coloring; but he thought it represented the ocean after a storm rather than before one, and a writer in the Atlantic Monthly said, “ In this we have no doubt he is right.” The work was no sooner placed on exhibition in the Museum than a warm controversy regarding its merits broke out, and raged for several weeks in the press. Somebody suggested that the acquisition of a Turner ought to be commemorated, and ventured to say that “ in an artistic age the dignitaries of the city would go in a procession to welcome it, and the citizen who had conferred such a boon on his home would be distinguished by some mark of public honor.” On the other hand, the painting was ridiculed with more or less cheap wit, and was regarded by the majority with the same emotions that they would experience in contemplating a Chinese puzzle. Thackeray, who considered himself so competent as an art critic that he did not hesitate to attack Raphael, said bluntly, “ I don’t know whether it is sublime or ridiculous.” This was the very state of mind of a vast number of worthy people in Boston. The extravagant tone adopted by some admirers of the picture made the opposition doubly hilarious. The town was divided into two hostile camps, and ink flowed in copious streams. “It is the most infernal piece of clap-trap ever painted,” said George Inness. “ It is a painting of moans, and tears, and groans, and shrieks,” said a highly imaginative correspondent, who felt authorized by Ruskin’s example to go to any lengths. An old salt published a bluff letter, in which he censured the drawing of the fishes, which, he reasoned, must be intended for sharks. I believe he even reckoned the latitude and longitude. The wordy warfare waxed warmer and warmer. The humorous person who could see nothing in the picture but “ a yellow cat having a fit in a dish of tomatoes ” was a good match for the Englishman who went to Rome, and, on entering the Sistine Chapel, exclaimed to his companion, “ Egad, George, we ’re bit.” Turner’s biographer, Thornbury, had but little sympathy for his later works, which he calls “ dreams, challenges, theories, experiments, and absurdities.” The color he compares to fireworks, “ rising sometimes almost to insanity, and occasionally sinking into imbecility.” Finally, the ever reasonable, clear-headed, and dispassionate Hamerton thus inclusively sums up the episode : “ The warm controversy at Boston about the Slave Ship was caused by a feeling of rebellion in some minds too independent to accept dictation from an English critic, whilst others defended the picture as the work of a man of genius who had been roughly treated by the press. An antagonism of this description is good for the fame of an artist, because it makes everybody talk about him, but truth disengages itself only when the noise has ceased and the smoke of battle has passed away.”
Until the civil war period, there were only one or two artistic private collections of pictures in Boston. Mr. Thomas G. Appleton, who knew Troyon personally, bought a few of his paintings and one pastel drawing, and, acquiring a Rousseau, a Diaz, and about thirty other works, may be said to have had the finest private collection in town prior to 1860. He and Adolphe Borie, of Philadelphia, were the first persons in the United States who made collections of the best modern French paintings. In 1857, and again three years later, Gambart, the Belgian dealer, who introduced the works of Rosa Bonheur and Edouard Frère to the English and American publics with so much success, brought hither numerous French pictures, and it was then that this class of works began to be known and bought. As early as 1852 or 1853, however, William M. Hunt had begun to buy Millet’s paintings in Barbizon, and he persuaded Mr. Martin Brimmer to buy The Harvesters (or The Gleaners), which was in the Salon of 1857. When Hunt took the money that Mr. Brimmer had given for The Harvesters (twentyfive hundred francs) to Millet, the latter burst into tears, and, holding up one of the five-hundred-franc notes, he said it was the first time in his life that he had had so much money. This, the first important painting brought from France to New England, was considered by Sensier to be finer than anything Millet had yet done, and “ had knowledge, a fine style, atmosphere, and modeling.” It represents three poor women picking up the stray bits of grain which have been left in the stubble by the farm laborers ; in the background are men at work unloading a cart and piling the wheat in great yellow ricks. When Gambart came to Boston the second time, he showed some excellent paintings at the Athenæum. Mr. B. F. Burgess bought from him a fine Troyon, called The Hay Cart, depicting a peasant walking by the side of his two sturdy horses, which are drawing a load of hay along a rural highway; and Mr. Benjamin Rotch bought a large landscape with apple-trees in the foreground, by Lambinet. The French landscapes, as may be fancied, made a strong impression upon people of artistic tastes, who had never had a chance to see anything in the way of foreign art except an occasional collection of Düsseldorf pictures at the Athenæum, and once or twice a set of English water-colors. “ The German and English pictures did not give me any desire to be a painter,” writes an artist, “ but I had only to see the French work to set me wild to go to Paris and see more.” It was thus that between 1850 and 1860 a few young Boston art students began to flock to Paris, the forerunners of the army that has followed them from all parts of the country.
A gentleman who has since formed “ one of the most exquisite cabinets of a special kind of art in the world ” began to collect pictures in Paris in 1860. by the purchase of a Lambinet and a Rousseau. The success of Lambinet in Boston, by the way, has always been out of proportion to his reputation in France ; and no private collection has been considered complete without at least one example of his work. Mr. E. DurandGréville, who was in Boston in 1886, engaged in preparing a catalogue of French works of art in this country for the Ministry of the Fine Arts, was inclined to make light of many of the Lambinets that he found here, and he included only the most important of them in his report. During the war time several of the best private collections were begun. Mr. Wigglesworth and Mr. Hitchcock were among the first amateurs to buy the works of the modern French masters. The latter acquired a Millet from Hunt, and a fine Rousseau, which he bought from the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher at a very low price. In 1864, Mr. Hitchcock, on going abroad to reside, sold the most of his pictures to Mr. Henry Sayles, who continued to add to his cabinet by judicious purchases until he had a unique collection, one of the best ever owned in Boston. About twenty of his pictures, fine examples of the greatest French painters, were chosen for him by Mr. J. Foxeroft Cole. Cadart, the French picture-dealer, came to Boston in 1866, and sold the first Corots ever seen in the United States, with the exception of one which Mr. Cole had bought in Paris for Mr. Sayles. Mr. Cole went to France several times between 1865 and 1875 to buy pictures for his friends, among others Mr. Peter C. Brooks, Mr. H. P. Kidder, Mr. Alexander Cochrane, and Dr. H. C. Angell, who have formed admirable collections. In the mean time the picture-dealers had begun to have a lively trade in French paintings, a trade which continued to increase until the duty on foreign works of art was raised to thirty per cent. Lately a large proportion of the French pictures sold here have not been genuine, and others still are miserable examples. It could hardly be expected that it would be otherwise, considering the temptations set before the merchants by the credulity of their clients, the enormous prices readily obtained, and the limited number of genuine works.
Boston amateurs have never made such extensive, costly, and showy collections as those of the Vanderbilts, Belmonts, and Stewarts in New York, or of Mr. Walters in Baltimore, but the number of good pictures modestly housed in the homes of “ the upper ten thousand ” of the city is astonishing ; and it is a significant fact in the history of art that there was a time when New York dealers who had a good Corot or Courbet were obliged to send it to Boston in order to sell it. It must have been before this era of enlightenment that such collections as that of Mr. Alvin Adams were formed. The sale of this cabinet in 1882 brought to view in an interesting way a wholly different class of pictures. It was commonly said that Mr. Adams, who made no pretense to connoisseurship, formed his collection solely to suit his own tastes, and no doubt this was true. That there are those who do otherwise, permitting a picture-seller to choose their paintings for them, as they permit the upholsterer to select their curtains and draperies, is a fact which accounts for some curious and ludicrous revelations of æsthetic hypocrisy. Mr. Adams had paid high prices for two of Bierstadt’s large compositions at the time when the Rocky Mountain school was on the flood-tide of popular favor ; and the sudden depreciation in value of such works as The Lake of Lucerne and Among the Sierras was a startling indication of the change which had come over the public taste. Mr. Adams also had a fervent admiration for the works of Kinder-Meyer and of Verboeckhoven. The sum total of the sale was not far from sixty thousand dollars, the largest amount ever obtained from the public sale of a private collection of art works in Boston. The best prices were those obtained for Bierstadt’s two grandiose panoramas ; Meyer von Bremen’s trio of pious domestic idyls; Boldini’s smart and sparkling single figure entitled Morning, in the light manner of Fortuny; Verboeckhoven’s dry Landscape with Shepherd and Dogs; Dieffembach’s An Unfortunate Meeting, or High Life and Low Life, which portrayed an enraged buck assaulting a four-inhand team of peaceable goats, driven by children; Schreyer’s Winter, a snowy Russian scene, with a group of sorry horses and a broken-down cart; M. F. H. De Haas’s Off to the Rescue, picturing six heroes in a small boat making for a shipwrecked craft, which they will surely never reach through such a tremendous sea; Nicol’s Bothered with the Change ; Bewer’s The Lorelei; Vernet-Lecomte’s Castanet-Player; Tissot’s Studio Interior; Robie’s Flowers; and J. H. L. De Haas’s Cattle in the Meadows of Holland, These names declare with sufficient precision the character of the collection, which was not so important for itself as it was when regarded as a type or an illustration of a certain stage in the development of taste. No picture-buyer becomes a délicat in a moment; your full-fledged amateur arrives at maturity by a process of slow growth. Picture-merchants say that they have customers who buy entire new collections to replace old ones at stated intervals, even as the chrysalis sloughs off his outgrown envelope when he emerges a butterfly. The subject first interests in painting. Every one likes a good story while it is new, and some stories are good enough to last.
From Merle, Toulmouche, Meyer, Fichel, and Verboeckhoven, the collectors of later days passed on by more or less abrupt stages to new and still newer lights, — to the men who, from neglect and obscurity, forced their way to recognition and supplanted the favorites of a former generation. The transition from bread-and-butter art to caviare has been so rapid as to awaken doubts concerning the sincerity with which such strange novelties as Monticelli, Mauve, Maris, Jongkind, and Boudin were ’welcomed. It is a long leap, but there were Corot, Dupre, and Rousseau in the interim, to accustom amateurs’ palates to curious and piquant flavors ; and it is not altogether impossible to find extremists who already avow openly their admiration for those mad outlaws, the Impressionists ! There is such a thing as fashion in art, and the Parisian merchant who foresaw the fame of the men of 1830 is now staking his fortune upon the next turn of the tide.
Be the future fluctuations of taste what they may, more than half of the important paintings in the private collections of Boston to-day are modern French works. There are at least five of Millet’s canvases which may be fairly included in this category, among which The Sower is the most celebrated. This rustic subject, painted at Barbizon, in 1830, has been generally called the peasant-painter’s masterpiece. I am not sure that Theophile Gautier’s eloquent description had not as much to do with making this picture famous as John Raskin’s rhapsody had to do with the celebrity of Turner’s Slave Ship. At all events, Gautier’s words were so apt and memorable that I need to make no apology for quoting from him: “ Night is coining, spreading her gray wings over the earth. The Sower marches with rhythmic step, flinging the grain in the furrow. He is followed by a cloud of pecking birds. He is covered with dark rags ; his head by a curious cap. He is bony, swart, and thin under this livery of poverty, yet it is life that his large hand sheds; lie who has nothing pours upon the earth, with a superb gesture, the bread of the future. On the other side of the slope, a last ray of the sun shows a pair of oxen at the end of their furrow: man’s strong and gentle companions, whose reward will one day be the slaughter-house. This is the only light part of the picture, which is bathed in shadow, and presents to the eye, under a cloudy sky, nothing but new-ploughed earth. Of all the peasants sent to the Salon this year, we much prefer The Sower. There is something great and of the grand style in this figure, with its violent gesture, its proud raggedness, which seems to be painted with the very earth that the Sower is planting.” Five years later Gautier returns to the subject in this strain : “ His Sower . . . had a rare grandeur and elevation, though its rusticity was not in the least softened ; but the gesture with which the poor laborer threw the sacred wheat into the furrow was so beautiful that Triptolemus, guided by Ceres, on some Greek bas-relief, could not have had more majesty. An old felt hat, all rusty and faded, earth-stained rags, a coarse linen shirt, were his costume. The color was subdued, austere, even to melancholy; the execution solid, thick, almost heavy, without any brilliancy of touch. Yet this picture made the same impression as the beginning of George Sand’s Mare au Diable, — a profound and solemn melancholy.” In spite of all this eloquence no one in Paris would buy The Sower at the absurd price of four hundred francs, until Hunt saw it, and promptly secured it. Millet’s Waiting, painted in 1861, delineated Tobit’s parents and their lowly home, and was unmercifully ridiculed. This picture was in the Sayles collection for many year’s, but has passed into a New York amateur’s possession, at, about one hundred times the price originally paid for itMillet’s Ruth and Boaz (1853) is a very modern version of the Biblical story, and describes a harvest scene in France, wherein the nineteenth - century Boaz “ finds a young gleaner, and leads her blushing to the feast of the country people.” (Sensier.) The Potato Planters represents a level expanse of country under a flood of bright sunlight, a man and a woman at work in the foreground, and a village in the distance. In the shade of a large apple-tree stands a donkey, and a child sleeps in a basket. The Sheep Shearer is best described in Millet’s own words. In this picture, he says, “ I have tried to express that sort of stupefaction which the sheep feel when they are just sheared, and the surprise of those not yet clipped at seeing such denuded creatures coming among them. I have tried to give a look of rustic comfort to the house, and to make one imagine the yard behind it green, where the poplars are planted to protect the house. In fact, I wished the whole thing to look like an old building full of associations.” A writer in the Gazette des Beaux-Arts spoke of the painting as recalling the great works of antiquity, and at the same time of the most solid painting and best color of the Venetian school. Millet’s Pastorale represents his early manner, and is as beautiful in color as any of his works. It was probably painted prior to the revolution of 1848, and before he retired to the country to devote his pencil to the illustration of rural life. At that period he had much facility. His color was rich, glowing, and fat; his touch was lighter than when he executed the more familiar peasant pictures with which his fame is chiefly associated. Although the works mentioned do not by any means exhaust the list of Millet’s pictures, they are the best, and the most characteristic specimens.
Why Courbet’s Demoiselles de Village should be so named it is not easy to say. The picture is a landscape, and though there are two or three maiden ladies in it, they are neither conspicuous nor interesting except as accessories in a rural scene, which is painted with marvelous truth and vigor. The hats and shawls of these provincial ladies are of a bygone fashion, which gives to their figures a certain quaintness of aspect that is not unpleasing. The merits of the painting are many and self-evident. It is a portrait of Nature’s very face, — a likeness of perfect exactitude, faithful to the last line and tint; so simple that there is nothing to describe, so complete that there is nothing to be added which would not be a blemish. If “good tableaux need no declamation,” this great landscape, as modest as the quiet country it depicts, but with something of the granite strength that underlies the verdant meadows, may be said to speak for itself with a singular eloquence.
Among Daubigny’s works there are five or six examples of the first order, but The Cooper’s Shop may be taken as a summing-up of its author’s best qualities. Like most of Daubigny’s large landscapes, it is a rapidly painted, roughsurfaced work, with the characteristics of a hasty sketch ; but beyond these it possesses the solidity, depth, atmosphere, and effect of a completed work when seen at a little distance. It is not easy to perceive how The Cooper’s Shop could be improved. In its legitimate line it is a masterpiece. The subject is extremely simple and grave : a fine dense old wood, in the twilight, when the last gleams of golden light in the western sky break through the openings among the trees, under which is the humble shop, which gives the picture its name, and some vague figures at work down there in the shadows. It is the broad, simple, sincere work of a great painter, full of manly poetry. Corot’s Forest of Fontainebleau, for which he received the cross of the Legion of Honor, in 1846. his View of Rouen, Ville d’Avray, and Clearing Off, Morning, are but a few of the best of his very numerous landscapes in Boston. Of Troyon’s works, there are at least four which may be rated as particularly interesting examples, and one as of unquestionable importance. Rousseau, Jules Dupré, Diaz, Michel, Jacque, and Jules Breton are represented respectively by works worthy of their fame, and with them our list of really great French painters must close.
Is there any doubt of Breton’s right to be named in this renowned company ? His Last Ray, an exquisite poem in color, leaves no room for discussion as to this point. His place is indeed among the last of that line of illustrious artists classed as the School of 1830, whose achievements will be ever considered the chief glory of nineteenth-century art; but it is none the less a legitimate and a high place that Breton’s name already occupies. In Le Dernier Rayon he has infused the aroma of a lovely pastoral existence; he has realized the unspeakable peacefulness and sweetness of rural life as it should be, — nay, as it is in those rare moments of joy and expansion permitted to the humblest of toilers. Three peasants, seated just outside their home, have been at work in the shade of the dwelling. To them, from the fields, come a man and his wife from their labors on the farm : he trundling a wheelbarrow, she joyously extending her arms to greet a toddling youngster who runs forth to meet her. Back of the returning laborers is a wall, then a group of red-roofed cottages and a few spindling trees. Upon these and upon the faces of the father and mother shines the warm and mellow light of the setting sun, — an effect in the treatment of which Breton is especially happy. If Millet had not lived, it could be said that Breton had discovered a new element of poetry in his art. As it is, his works are somewhat overshadowed by the peculiar gravity and the classical sentiment of the peasant’s creations. Breton executes rather better than Millet, but is not so directly inspired, and makes suavity and sweetness take the place of rugged grandeur. There is no more instructive comparison in modern art than that which may be instituted between these two great artists: the one so accomplished, so lovable, so successful ; the other so obscure, poverty-ridden, neglected, and sad, until Death opened the gate for tardy Fame.
A spirited and breezy work by Isabey, The Embarkation, time of Louis XIV., which is marked by a very distinguished and personal style, reanimates the gallant epoch of display, adventure, and romance in France. This dramatic page, as the French say, weds interest of subject with interest of execution in an entirely concordant unity. It is a lovematch such as one would like to see made more often. I must mention, finally, those French works which, either by their immense size, by their impressive or amusing subjects, by the great reputation of their respective authors, by some incidents associated with them, or by some means more closely related to artistic considerations, have become more or less celebrated. To this class belong Ary Scheffer’s Dante and Beatrice, Jules Lefêbvre’s Salomé, Alphonse de Neuville’s Capture of a French Spy, Adrien Moreau’s Concert of Amateurs, Léon Perrault’s Love and Innocence, Henri Lerolle’s Potato Diggers, Gustave Jacquet’s Première Arrivée, Adolphe Schreyer’s Flight of the Standard-Bearer, Jean Georges Vibert’s Schism in the Church.
The Americans come next after the French artists in the number of their important pictures in private collections. As we have seen, the family portraits by Copley, Stuart, and other early painters are very numerous. Several of the most interesting examples of Allston’s art are in private houses, and not a few charming old landscapes by Doughty, Thomas Cole, Kensett, et id genus omne. Of later and of still living artists, Hunt, Fuller, Johnston, Inness, Homer, Vedder, Lafarge, Cole, and Brown occupy honorable places in the more artistic cabinets. In the forty collections with which I have some acquaintance, there are less than one fourth which do not contain a respectable proportion of American works, though I have yet to hear of a collection made up exclusively of native productions, like that of Mr. Thomas B. Clarke in New York. Why should a man who loves pictures and is able to gratify his taste confine his attention to the art of a single nation, even his own ? Does one buy paintings from motives of patriotism ?
The most remarkable American pictures are Hunt’s La Marguerite, a twothirds-length single figure of a young woman consulting that infallible oracle of the fields, the simple flower “ soch that men callen daisies,” painted when the artist was studying under Couture; The Bathers, a fine study of the nude, which Mr. Schoff has engraved; The Gleaner; and a noble landscape with cattle, which graces the rich collection of Mrs. S. D. Warren; Fuller’s Quadroon, Turkey Pasture, Fidalma, and Winifred Dysart; and John Sargent’s El Jaleo, which was the artistic sensation of the year 1882, and describes a gypsy dance in Spain, in the capricious, fantastic, grotesque, and violent style of Goya.
Outside of the Museum of Fine Arts there are but few really important Dutch pictures in the town. Besides the great Tilborg which I have described, there is a brown Violin Player, by Metsu; a fine modern canvas by Mettling, representing a peasant woman, a little girl, and a dog convoying a flock of sheep homeward along a dusty road in the warm twilight; a good example of Mesdag’s spirited marine painting, with a few smaller Mauves, Marises, and Israels. In the English school there are, besides the Slave Ship of Turner, some good examples of Hogarth, Alma-Tadema. Boughton, Vicat Cole, and of several famous water-colorists. The German school is inadequately represented by Becker’s Othello and Desdemona, some of A. Achenbach’s marines, and some small canvases by Knaus, with a considerable number of Meyer von Bremen’s Children-Pictures. Italy, Spain, and Belgium are meagrely represented, too, if we rule out the numerous doubtful “old masters.” Pasini’s almost perfect Oriental pictures are to be noted among the few modern Italian works which are above mediocrity. The modern men of Spain, Fortuny, Domingo, Madrazo, Ximenez, Zamacoïs, Rico, a brilliant artistic group, are to be judged solely by a handful of choice little “gems.” The highly finished Reception of an Ambassador, by Leon y Eseosura, in the Wigglesworth collection, is perhaps of a more popular cast. Rubens’s country is scantily accounted for by such men as De Cock, the landscapist, whose fresh green foliage is always a joy to the sight; Clays, the masterly marine painter; Baron Leys, the accomplished historical painter; and Alfred Stevens, daintiest and most delicate delineator of feminine elegance and refinement. There are also some comparatively petty examples of the great Parisian Magyar, Munkacsy; some beautiful but quite abstruse specimens of that sensuous Italian Parisian, Monticelli; some cold and original illustrative work by the Parisian Poles whose names end in owski ; and some charming blonde children’s heads signed by Edelfelt, the Parisian Finn. Many of the finest pictures mentioned were bought at the memorable sale of the Morgan collection in New York, in 1886, and others were acquired at the sale of the Brown and Wall collections the same year. The owners of the best works of art are very generous, with rare exceptions, in permitting their treasures to be seen; and there has been no time since the opening of the Museum of Fine Arts when there has not been a good loan collection of modern pictures there.
In the foregoing enumeration of works, scarcely any reference has been made to the numerous minor examples of the old and modern masters, of which the bulk of the private collections is naturally composed, since almost all amateurs are like Thackeray, who confessed that he preferred a nice little picture to a “ thundering great firstrater.”
William Howe Downes.