Historical Sketch of Art in the Netherlands.
By Professor Anton Springer.
The traveller who would explore the Netherlands without tak-
ing account of the Art Treasures still preserved there, heedlessly
disregards a source of the highest gratification. The collections
in the cities, as well in Belgium asin Holland, can boast that
they include many of the most remarkable creations of the art
of a bygone period: works, moreover, which have not found
their way hither by mere accident, but grow out of the very soil,
so to speak, of these Low Countries, and have their raison détre
in the land, in those forms and fashions which to this day repeat
themselves alike in the native landscape and in the habits of the
people. How much more lively is the impression received from
works of art when seen amidst their natural surroundings, is a
matter of common and approved experience. Everything that is
essentially characteristic in a picture, atmosphere and light, form,
whether natural or otherwise, fashion and custom, present them-
selves to the beholder. The sources of the artist’s inspiration,
all that served to feed his fancy, are clearly manifest; while many
a characteristic incident, which would otherwise escape observation
or remain altogether unintelligible, receives its requisite inter-
pretation. It is true that the esthetic value of individual pictures
may be always in all places recognized. A Titian is lustrous even
in St. Petersburg; Diirer’s incisive pencil asserts itself in Madrid.
Nevertheless the historical significance of Art, the necessary cause
of her development, can be understood by those only who will
explore the scenes which witnessed her life's first dawn, particu-
larly when lapse of time has failed materially to alter the character
of such scenes.
A distinction which the Netherlands enjoy in common with
Italy consists in the opportunity afforded of obtaining the best
possible insight into the mysterious quickening of the artistic spirit ;
a comprehensive suryey, too, of ait’s earliest promise and maturity,
and her identity with the national life. That continuity and many-
sidedness of national art, which in Italy is so pronounced, the Nether-
lands do not, however, possess. Twice only — once in the 15th, and
once in the 17th century — do they furnish remarkable material for
the history of modern art. Earlier centuries reveal a poor art life,
and the intervals between the two periods referred to fail to make
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K 29612:[a,1,11], Collectie Stad Antwerpen, Erfgoedbibliotheek Hendrik Conscience
Baedeker, Karl, Belgium and Holland, including the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg: handbook for travellers, K 29612:[a,1,11], Collectie Stad Antwerpen, Erfgoedbibliotheek Hendrik Conscience