Pictures To See In New York
( Originally Published 1917 )
"Let statue, picture, park and hall,
Thus sings the " Yankee Plato," Emerson, in verses preceding that well known Essay on Art, and further ---
"So shall the drudge in dusty frock
"Teach him on these as stairs to climb
" Painting," says Emerson, " teaches me the splendor of color and the expression of form. Then is my eye opened to the eternal picture which nature paints in the street, with moving men and children, beggars and fine ladies, draped in red and green and blue and gray; long-haired, grizzled, white-faced, black-faced, wrinkled, giant, dwarf, expanded, elfish, capped and based by heaven, earth and sea." Later he adds the significant aphorism, " Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or we find it not."
In the largest city but one in the world we may expect to find treasured much of the beautiful, and in this hope we shall not be disappointed, though it is not yet fifty years since the collection of paintings was started in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. We will begin our visit there.
At the top of the grand staircase, Van Dyck's splendid portrait of " James Stuart, Duke of Lennox," first arrests our attention. It was during his long visit in England that Sir Anthony Van Dyck painted this famous picture of the handsome cousin of King Charles I. It is a thorough Stuart portrait, the Duke very elegant in black velvet, with long curly golden hair, and beside him his aristocratic dog.
Two Vermeers on either side show the characteristic yellow against blue, so well displayed in the original of " The Kitchen Maid " (p. 210). The " Young Woman with a Water jug " is also somewhat. in the style of our Vermeer.
The great picture here is the Colonna Raphael, as it is called because once owned by the celebrated Colonna family in Rome. It represents the " Virgin and Child with Saints," and was painted in 1504-1505 for the nuns of the Convent of St. Anthony of Padua, in Perugia.
A single Bellini " Madonna and Child " should be observed,a charming picture, though not more so than our beautiful detail from another Bel-lini Madonna group, the " Mary Magdalene" (p.60).
Ruskin once owned the Tintoretto called " A Doge in Prayer before the Redeemer," and it hung in Ruskin's din ing-room. It is an allegorical picture, painted probably about 1570, to celebrate the prestige of Venice.
In the Veronese, " Mars and Venus United by Love," we find an entertaining mythological subject.
The Dutch School is suggested by a Ruisdael " Landscape " and a fine Rembrandt, " The Young Painter," the latter portraying no doubt one of the artist's youthful students.
A portrait by the American artist John W. Alexander of the poet Whitman in advanced years is impressive in the next gallery. Here may be seen also early American portraits by Gilbert Stuart, including a well-known George Washington.
Edwin Austin Abbey is splendidly represented by the " Scene from King Lear," of which the " divine Cordelia " is the central figure, as she receives the dismissal from her royal father's court.
Two important American landscapes, " Peace and Plenty" and " Delaware Valley," by George Inness, recall the " September Afternoon " (facing this chapter). All suggest the calm of meditation, so characteristic of this greatest of American landscape painters.
In Whistler's symphony of yellow, " Connie Gilchrist " is skipping the rope as lightly as she did in 1876 at the Gaiety in London. A realistic " Northeaster," by Winslow Homer, is filled with rocks and foam and tide.
Sir Joshua Reynolds' " Master Hare," in a room beyond, is one of his few but charming boy portraits. Reynolds' pictures of little girls are famous, as " The Age of Innocence" (p. 172). In the next room, observe Israel's " The Frugal Meal," a peasant picture such as he was fondest of painting, this Dutch artist who, like Millet, so loved the people.
In the same room, the Vanderbilt Gallery, are fine examples of the Barbison School, with Millet's " Sower," probably the best-known of that master in this country. " Devoid though the peasant's toil may be of joyousness," says Millet, " it nevertheless stands, not only for true human nature, but also for loftiest poetry." The real atmosphere of Barbison is felt in Diaz' " Forest of Fontainebleau," as also in Jules Dupre's "Autumn Sunset," and (in a later room) " The Hay Wagon," and Rousseau's " Edge of the Woods." Of trees Rousseau says, " I wish to converse with them, and to be able to say to myself, through that other language—paintingthat I had put my finger on the secret of their grandeur." Of the same school are Daubigny's "Morning on the Seine" and Corot's " Ville d'Avray," the town where he so long lived, which picture, with the peasant woman in the foreground, suggests " The Wood Gatherers" (p. 130), so full of atmosphere, as always with Corot.
"Lachrymae" (Tears), by Lord Leighton, seventh President of the Royal Academy, London, represents a beautifully draped woman's figure, bowed by an urn. Its thoroughly classic qualities deserve attention, though as a picture of grief it is not convincing. Near it is Lenbach's fine, naturalistic portrait of " Professor Emerson. Lenbach, it is said, began always to paint his faces with the eyes.
Lhermitte's religious group, " Among the Lowly," though modern in character, suggests the meeting at Emmaus, and the Saviour's blessing at that humble table.
Recent pictures added to the Metropolitan are two by the " peasant realist of Spain," Sorolla, filled with sunlight and color and life: " Beaching the Boat " and " After the Bath," the latter of two sun-kissed young people. In the same room, but in striking contrast, is perhaps the most famous of American historical scenes, Leutze's "Washington Crossing the Delaware," exceedingly ` romantic ' in several particulars which could not be " true to life."
Two more Israels must not be over looked: " Expectation," a young girl sewing on a bit of white, and the " Bashful Suitor," representing a pair of diffident lovers in a wide expanse of country. Nor must a Sargent portrait be forgotten, of another celebrated American artist, " William M. Chase," and a popular landscape picture by an almost self taught American, Homer D. Martin, the " Harp of the Winds,"—called also " View on the Seine,"—representing tall, fragile trees against a distant sky, seen over water. This picture was one of those loaned a few years ago to Germany as representative of American painting.
One of the most striking pictures is Bastien Lepage's heroic and realistic " Joan of Arc," the peasant girl of visions, in the garden of her early home, listening to the voices that direct her to renounce all in order to save France and her King.
" The Boy with the Sword," by Edouard Manet, the great French impressionist, deserves careful study as a fine example of that modern school. In breaking with traditions of art, Manet says, " Each time I paint I throw myself into the water to learn swimming. "
In the Turner gallery, the " Grand Canal of Venice " is perhaps the greatest, and the subject, in its dazzling richness of color and bewildering glory of sunlight, is well known to all. " There is no test of our acquaintance with nature so absolute and unfailing," says Ruskin, " as the degree of admiration we feel for Turner's paintings."
In the Dutch room of masterpieces there are four great Rembrandts, including a portrait of the artist in middle life. In addition to these fine examples, the Metropolitan Museum is exceedingly fortunate in possessing, in the remark-able Altman collection, the greatest number of chief works by an individual. In the words of a recent writer, " There are in America to-day a larger number of the paintings of Rembrandt than in any one country of Europe, and of this number thirteen were bought by Mr. Alt-man."
In this famous Altman assemblage are not only Rembrandts but pictures by Hals, Vermeer, Velasquez, Francia, Titian, Dürer, Fra Angelico, and Memling.
The striking " Hille Bobbe " of Hals shows the Haarlem fishwife, bird on shoulder, painted with the master's marvelous realism and lighting. Two other portraits of the same subject exist,—the one in the Berlin Museum, the other at Lille.
A genre picture of "The Old Fiddler" by Hals' favorite pupil, Adriaan van Ostade, shows a happy Holland group about the doorway of a peasant cottage. A single Jan Steen, called " A Dutch Kermesse," represents a sort of holiday picnic. Steen has been called the Dutch Hogarth. How appropriate that these pictures from old Holland should find a niche in the "New Amsterdam" of America!
Although Rubens is represented in this country by only about fifty pictures, a smaller percentage than of any other great master, the Metropolitan is fortunate in owning his "Fox and Wolf Hunt," a very spirited painting, with fine portraits of the artist and his first wife, Isabella Brandt, on horseback.
Another Rubens of " The Holy Family " also illustrates his unique mastery of flesh painting, the colors being as warm as in real life.
In the next gallery we observe another Tintoretto, a Venetian religious scene. At the opposite end of the room is " St. John the Evangelist," by the Spaniard Murillo, the only example of this artist in the Museum. Symbolic in its characters of the eagle—referring to the apostle's heavenly vision the golden cup, the yellow garment with the red draperies signifying divine love, this picture shows St. John holding a pen as though about to transcribe his revelation in the open book before him.
Correggio's " Four Saints," the only one there by this artist, is a very Italian picture, showing St. Peter with the keys, St. Martha putting her foot on the dragon's head, Mary Magdalene in yellow with a red cloak, holding in her hand the alabaster jar, and St. Leonard, the latter a missionary courtier of King Theodobert of the sixth century. The name Leonard signifies, of course, " Brave as a Lion."
" Christopher Columbus," by Sebastiano del Piombo (1485-1547), was painted (1506) no doubt for the discoverer's son Ferdinand, who wrote his father's life. The inscription reads: " This is a wonderful likeness of the Genoese Columbus who was the first to penetrate in a barque to the region of the Antipodes." Piombo was a favorite student of Michelangelo.
A Botticelli, thoroughly medieval in style, represents three scenes of " St. Zenobius," all in one picture. At the left a funeral procession is halted while the Saint restores the dead to life; in the center St. Zenobius. recalls to life the leader who, while journeying with the relics of a martyr, fell from his horse and was crushed to death; on the right are three smaller scenes, telling the story of St. Eugenius who hears that his relative has died without receiving the last sacrament; St. Zenobius brings him blessed salt and water, which St. Eu-genius is pictured as taking to his kinsman, and in the third group he is sprinkling it upon the dead man, who revives. Of Botticelli, Ruskin says, " He was the only painter in Italy who under-stood the thought of the heathen and Christian equally."
A fresco of " St. Christopher," attributed to Pollaiuolo, is worthy of notice. It will be remembered that " he is the saint of earthquakes, fire and tempest, and often with his pictures is the inscription, ` Whoever shall behold the Image of Saint Christopher shall not faint or fail in that day.' "
A beautiful "Madonna and Child" by Lorenzo di Credi (I450-1537) reminds us that as a follower of Savonarola, this artist destroyed all his pictures of mythological subjects,a sad loss to us, no doubt.
A fine Holbein " Portrait of a Young Man " was probably painted while the artist was still youthful (1517).
The Hispanic Museum in New York will repay a visit. Here are striking examples of Velasquez, Goya, Sorolla's portraits of King Alphonso XIII. and his Queen, the present monarchs of Spain.
In the New York City Hall are early American portraits by distinguished painters of the time.
The Central Museum of the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences possesses a roomful of old Italian masters, including Taddeo Gaddi's (1300-1366) two Triptychs, " Scenes from the Life of St. Laurence and "Miracles of St. Laurence." ` This devout Spanish Saint, of the third century, it will be recalled, for his piety was condemned by the tyrannical Roman Emperor to be roasted alive.
The picture attracting most attention in this Museum is, perhaps, the " Portrait of Whistler," by Giovanni Boldini. Whistler is reported to have said of it, with his usual irony, " They say it looks like me, but I hope I don't look like that."
The representation of the French School includes Géricault's fine " Portrait of the Artist's Mother."
Of American painters, there are excellent examples of Inness, Winslow Homer, La Farge, and Chase. There are many other pleasing and valuable works here, such as El Greco's " St. Francis " of the famous Ryder collection, which includes many interesting pictures.