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makes us feel a debt of gratitude to the man who can, like the Greeks in carving their superb statues, sink the model in the memory of what he has seen, and paint from the visions that have formed themselves in his mind.
Then his technical ability is of the highest order, and his sense of colour profound. Those who consider the painter-quality of pictures as the most important, readily admit the truth of this as shown in what he did until about 1874, and his work of this period, from 1860 to 1874, is the admiration of artists. There is a directness and certainty about it, a delicate draughtsmanhip, a fine sense of composition, a beauty and richness of colouring, a uniqueness of aim and execution, that place it in a class by itself.
Having arrived at this point, Matthew Maris felt that there was something escaping him; the finer spirit of the subject, that which he wished to paint, could not be described in the somewhat set terms of expression he was then using, beautiful as they were. His art must grow and develop by getting more of the spiritual into his work, and less of the material; form must cease to be the chief means he employs, and more must be indicated by vaguer and less distinct, yet at the same time equally effective and satisfactory methods. Looking back at his work, we find, very soon after the time of his earliest and most careful drawings, made when he was learning the technique of art, that the germ of his later ideas is to be found in his work from about 1860 onwards. This is seen mainly in the typical character of the faces. They are never suggestive of the portrait or the model, and there is a wondering thoughtfulness in them. They cannot reveal the mystery of their being, the riddle of existence, nor can the observer make it out, but it seems to be there, ever present and inscrutable, as in the Mona Lisa, and the Sphinx.
This is what Matthew Maris is striving for, and we see the spiritual side of his work growing, while the form gradually becomes less dwelt upon. Yet, as has been well said, “The more he strives to abandon material form, the more hauntingly he expresses it.” And
“Catalogue, Dutch Exhibition, 1904." Whitechapel Art Gallery.
no one but a master of all the resources that technical skill can give, could paint the suggestions of the scenes that pass before his mind in the way that he does. Their charm is elusive and indefinite, yet very real. They are a source of pleasure that is ever renewing itself, and you never seem fully to realize all that they have to disclose. Art has not produced before his time just this form of weird mystic beauty.
To have painted such brilliant pictures in his earlier years, and such ethereal conceptions of the triumph of the spirit over the world, of mind over matter, in his later works, is Matthew Maris's peculiar distinction, and no artist could have a more real or abiding claim to lasting fame.
LIKE his brothers, William Maris early showed signs of ability, and was an industrious student. He chose for his special subjects the cattle in their haunts in the soft meadows of Holland, with their willow trees and lagoon-like shallow waters, or broad rivers bordering them. In addition to this he paints his favourite ducks in their cool, shadowy homes in the streams under the green trees, and sometimes he gives us views of the River Merwerde, with boats sailing on its waters and windmills built on its banks. Some people complain that in his later work the cattle are not carefully enough drawn. This is done with an object, and not from want of knowledge or ability to draw them, for these he undoubtedly has. He studied cattle for
years, in the most painstaking way, and if he wished to do so his pencil sketches abundantly prove that he could paint them with