This was, I believe, in 1857; not feeling over sure as regards that date, I refer to a bundle of du Maurier’s letters before me, but they offer me no assistance; there is but one dated, and that one merely headed: “Dusseldorf, 19th Cent.” Well, in 1857, then, let us take it, the Antwerp Academy was under the direction of De Keyser, that most urbane of men and painters. Van Lerius, well known to many American and English lovers of art, her Majesty included, was professor of the Painting Class, and amongst the students there were many who rapidly made themselves a name, as Tadema, M. Maris, Neuhuys, Heyermans, and the armless artist, whose foot-painted copies after the Masters at the Antwerp Gallery are well known to every tourist. The teaching was of a sound, practical nature, strongly imbued with the tendencies of the colourist school. Antwerp ever sought to uphold the traditions of a great Past; in the atelier Gleyre you might have studied form and learnt to fill it with colour, but here you would be taught to manipulate colour, and to limit it by form. A peculiar kind of artistic kicks and cuffs were administered to the student by Van Lerius as he went his rounds. “That is a charming bit of colour you have painted in that forehead,” he said to me on one occasion—“so delicate and refined. Do it again,” he added, as he took up my palette knife and scraped off the “delicate bit.” “Ah, you see, savez vous, you can’t do it again; you got it by fluke, some stray tints off your palette, savez vous,” and, taking the biggest brush I had, he swept over that palette and produced enough of the desired tints to have covered a dozen foreheads.
The comrade without arms was a most assiduous worker; it was amusing to watch his mittened feet step out of their shoes and at the shortest notice proceed to do duty as hands; his nimble toes would screw and unscrew the tops of the colour tubes or handle the brush as steadily as the best and deftest of fingers could have done. Very much unlike any of us, he was most punctilious in the care he bestowed on his paint box, as also on his personal appearance. Maris, Neuhuys, Heyermans, and one or two others equally gifted, but whose thread of life was soon to be cut short, were painting splendid studies, some of which I was fortunate enough to rescue from destruction and have happily preserved.
Quite worthy to be placed next to these are Van-der-something’s studies. That (or something like that) was the name of a wiry, active little man who in those days painted in a garret; there everything was disarranged chaotically, mostly on the floor, for there was no furniture that I can recollect beyond a stool, an easel, and a fine old looking-glass. He had a house, though, and a wife, in marked contrast with his appearance and the garret. The house was not badly appointed, and she was lavishly endowed with an exuberance of charms and graces characteristic of a Rubens model.