Anecdotes of Painters, Engravers, Sculptors and Architects and Curiosities of Art (Vol. 3 of 3) eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 298 pages of information about Anecdotes of Painters, Engravers, Sculptors and Architects and Curiosities of Art (Vol. 3 of 3).
His works are invariably finished with care and diligence, and do not betray any haste or infirmity of hand or head.  It is evident that, from some untoward circumstance, his works were not appreciated in his day, but after his death they rose amazingly in value, and have continued to increase ever since,—­a true test of a master’s merit—­till now they are scarcely to be found except in royal and noble collections and the public galleries of Europe.  His pictures were, for a long time, scarcely known out of Holland, but now they are deservedly placed in the choicest collections.  His works are very numerous, sufficient to have continually occupied the life time of not only a sober and industrious artist, but one possessing great facility of hand.  Smith, in his Catalogue raisonne, vol. iv. and Supplement, gives a descriptive account of upwards of 300 genuine pictures by Steen, many of them compositions of numerous figures, and almost all of them executed with the greatest care.  It cannot be believed that a man living in a state of continued dissipation and inebriety, could find time to produce so many admirable works, displaying, as they do, a deep study of human nature, and a great discrimination of character, or that the hand of a habitual drunkard could operate with such beauty and precision.  Nor is it probable that a mind besotted by drink, and debased by low intercourse, could moralize so admirably as he has done on the evil consequences of intemperance and the indulgence of evil passions.


Dr Kuegler, a judicious critic, thus sums up his character as an artist:  “The works of Jan Steen imply a free and cheerful view of common life, and he treats it with a careless humor, such as seems to deal with all its daily occurrences, high and low, as a laughable masquerade and a mere scene of perverse absurdity.  His treatment of the subjects differed essentially from that adopted by other artists.  Frequently, indeed, they are the same jolly drinking parties, or the meetings of boors; but in other masters the object is, for the most part, to depict a certain situation, either quiet or animated, whilst in Jan Steen is generally to be found action more or less developed, together with all the reciprocal relations and interests between the characters which spring from it.  This is accompanied by great variety and force of individual expression, such as evinces the sharpest observation.  He is almost the only artist in the Netherlands who has thus, with true genius, brought into full play all these elements of comedy.  His technical execution suits his design; it is carefully finished, and notwithstanding the closest attention to minute details, it is as firm and correct as it is light and free.”


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