« AnteriorContinuar »
to and returning from the pasture lands, or cattle grazing on the scattered patches of grass, or ploughmen turning up the soil into furrows. At the same time his manner of painting changed and began to get broader, and his work more certain, and his pictures showed more of the personal element. In the period from 1870 to 1880 his work has reached maturity and from the technical point of view is at its best; the workmanship is brilliant, the brush work vigorous, strong, and effective, and the colour sparkling, yet the soft hazy atmosphere envelops everything in its mysterious folds, and the very spirit of the scene is given.
But we find his views of the meaning of life and of its expression in art still developing. Though he never surpassed the paintings he made during these years, from the painter's standpoint, though technically he even loses something, still if we would seek the full poetry of his revelation of nature, and the finer qualities of his own personality, we must go to some of the pictures that he painted in the last years of his life, from 1883 to 1888, when he lived in his happy home in the quiet village of Laren. In these a more tender, perhaps a sadder note is struck, but a more appealing, more lasting, and more fascinating effect is produced.
Mauve is the sweet lyric artist of Holland. The great strength and colour of James Maris, the brilliancy of William Maris, are not his. But how peaceful and soothing are his personal transcriptions of the quiet life on the sandy dunes near the Hague and Scheveningen, in the country about Oosterbeek and Wolfhezen, and in the fields close to Laren, with their dark fir trees and slender birches; the places he has made so familiar to us all, the scenes he so loved to paint! His low-toned harmonies seem indeed to catch the very spirit brooding over the teeming earth, and almost to reveal its meaning; and from them there wells forth an intense, longing love of nature, with an ever present sympathy with mankind. There is a tenderness, a wealth of feeling, and often a sadness in his pictures that puts the observer in sympathetic touch with his gentle and lovable disposition,
and his kindly view of the world around him.
Yet with all this they have a very striking dramatic quality that arrests the attention at once, and makes us pause and consider what the powerful attraction can be of these pictures apparently so simply painted, and that have so little so-called subject in them. The flocks of sheep bunched and huddled together as they cross the moors, in sunshine and storm, the ploughmen and toiling horses going through their day's labour as the morning wears away to evening, the herdsmen bringing home the cattle at the approach of night, these his favourite scenes are to be found frequently on his canvases, shown in all kinds of weather and with many varying surroundings. He painted them broadly and simply and just as he thought he saw them, and in such an individual way that they are now intimately associated with his memory. But his vision has the poet's insight, and besides painting as he thought just what he saw, in beautiful and decorative design, he really suggests unconsciously something of the unknowable mysteriousness of nature, and this makes his pictures as it were types of her different moods more than views of particular places.
How do the pictures of Mauve affect those who only know him by his works? Well, we do not go to them to see the cheerful side of nature, as we do to William Maris, although he does not feel the intense gloom that oppressed J. F. Millet, nor are his types of labourers in the fields so devoid of intelligence nor so borne down by a relentless fate as are those painted by the French artist. The Dutch peasants are painted in more comfortable surroundings, but they are still governed by the same immutable laws; and the impossibility of warding off suffering and sorrow, and the quiet endurance of them when they come, are shown by Mauve in the resigned and pathetic figures that do their day's work on the farms, or guide the flocks of sheep from one pasture to another. We cannot look at his pictures without noticing that very often he finds reflected in nature, and unconsciously records in his paintings, his own rather sad turn of mind, which grew more melancholy when he was