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not heed the cavillers who knew not of the celestial food, but went on building your cities at the bidding of imagination, and followed the guidance of your genius, as did Claude and Turner theirs; and very glad that you suffered no interference from nature and hard facts to spoil the beautiful lines and forms, the symmetry and poetry, of the visions you saw in your mind's eye, and transferred undimmed to your glowing canvas!
This shows the originality of James Maris, how little he was a mere recorder of facts, how imaginative and poetic his character really was. He is a master that his fellow countrymen unite in considering one of the greatest artists that Holland has ever produced, and it must cause those people who think that Dutch art is the realistic matter-of-fact record of the ordinary things of nature and life, to pause and consider if they are right in their opinion, or whether possibly a similar spirit may not have inspired the artists of “The Old Holland in the nineteenth century to that which
bich Masters of
Belgium Eugène Fromentin found in the works of the and Holmasters of the seventeenth.
As revealed in his pictures, James Maris seems to be one of those somewhat reserved men who cannot quite “let themselves go,” as the saying is. He did not receive at his birth the gift of a frank and communicative disposition; and while he does succeed in expressing himself, and that in no uncertain manner, but in an attractive and charming way, we still feel as if it was a little of an effort on his part to take us into his confidence, and that it is not done quite unconsciously. He does not put you at once at your ease, as do Mauve and Weissenbruch, with their pictures so immediately delightful to the eye, yet apparently so simple that one never pauses to consider how they are painted. We cannot help being just a little struck with the wondrous ability displayed by James Maris; in fact we are constrained to admire. Yet we almost hesitate to say even this, for he is a great artist, and the work of each period of his life is fine in composition, colour, and subject, from the time he painted the beautiful brown-toned pictures of canal bridges, and towns with their red-roofed houses, to the
latest and broadest of his descriptions of horsemen on the tow-path. In his last period he is altogether taken up with generalizing the effects of nature, trying to get its very essence, giving only the salient facts, and vaguely indicating the innumerable details that are there, yet may only be barely hinted at. He forgets all about the means and is intent only on the end; he is himself and he is in many ways at his greatest, notwithstanding a lack of definiteness and a daring freedom which some do not like. But indeed nearly all his work is splendid, though it may be that it belongs too near to the present day to enable us to see it in true proportion and to realize its greatness.
The fact that his character lends itself to an analysis of this kind shows how interesting the man and his career are, and as we study his pictures, which are all very original and vivid impressions of what he saw, and as we find their beauty revealing itself and growing on us, we know that we are in the presence of a master-mind; and even if the painter quality be often in evidence, so also are the