Meantime we must turn our attention to Holland, where Frans Hals, who was born only three years later than Rubens, namely in 1580, was the forerunner of Rembrandt, Van der Helst, Bol, Lely, and a host more of greater or less painters, who made their country as famous in the seventeenth century for art as their fathers had made it in the sixteenth for arms. Without going into the complications of the political history of the Netherlands at this period, it is important nevertheless to remember that while the Flemish provinces remained Catholic under Spain, the northern states, after heroic struggles, formed themselves into a Republic; so that while it is difficult to draw a hard and fast line between what was Dutch and what was Flemish in estimating the influence of one particular painter upon another, there is no question at all as to vital difference between the conditions which led to the production of the pictures of the two schools. The Flemish pictures were for the Church and for the Court, the Dutch for the house, the Guildhall, or the bourgeoisie. The former were aristocratic, the latter democratic. Rubens and Van Dyck were aristocrats, Hals and Rembrandt democrats. Rubens painted altar-pieces, for the great churches or cathedrals or for the chapels of his patrons. Rembrandt painted Bible stories for whoever would purchase them. Van Dyck painted the portraits of kings and nobles. Hals painted the rough soldiers and sailors, singly, or in the great groups into which they formed themselves as Guilds. For the first time in the history of painting, neither Church nor Court were its patrons.

In any age or under any circumstances Frans Hals would have seemed a remarkable painter, but to measure his extraordinary genius to its full height we must try to realise what those times and those circumstances were. In Florence and Venice, as we have seen, there were great schools of painting, and in Florence especially, the whole city existed in an atmosphere of art. There was no escape from it. In Haarlem, where Hals spent his youth (he was born in Antwerp), there was no such state of affairs. There were no chapels to be decorated, no courtiers to be flattered. The country was seething with the effects of war, and the whole population were ready for it again at a moment's notice. There were plenty of heroes—every man was one—but not of the romantic sort. They were all bluff, hardy fellows, who wanted to get on with their business. Who would have thought that they wanted to have their portraits painted? And who, accordingly, could have induced them to do so except a bluff, roystering genius like Hals, who slashed them down on canvas before they had time to stop him? Once it got wind that Hals was such a good fellow, and that he dashed off a portrait to the life in as little time as it took to pass the time of day with him, he had plenty of business, and from painting single portraits he was commissioned to glorify the Guilds by depicting their banquets, which he did with almost as much speed and considerably more fidelity than the limelight man at a City dinner in these times. His first great group—The Archers of S. George, at Haarlem—has all the appearance of being painted instantaneously as the banqueters stood around the table before dispersing.

When we think of the cultured Rubens, brought up in the atmosphere of Courts, and studying for years among the finest paintings and painters in Italy, and compare him with this low, ignorant fellow, who had never been outside the Netherlands, do we not find his genius still more amazing? Nowadays we see a portrait by Hals surrounded with the finest works of the greatest painters in all times and in all lands, and see how well it stands the comparison. But our admiration must be increased a hundredfold, when we know that he was without any of the training or tradition of a great artist, and that it must have been by sheer character and genius alone that he forced his art upon his commercial, though heroic public.

One thing especially it is interesting to notice about the Dutch portraits of the early Republican period, namely, that they are obviously inspired by the pleasure of having a living, speaking likeness rather than by pride and ostentation. Bluff and swaggering as some of Hals's portraits of men appear to be—notably The Laughing Cavalier, at Hertford House—that is only because the subjects were bluff and swaggering fellows—swaggering, that is to say, in the consciousness of their ability and their readiness to defend their country and their homes again, if need be, against the tyrant. But these swaggerers are the exception, and the prevailing impression conveyed is that of honest, if determined, bluffness. They are not posing, these jolly Dutchmen, they are sitting or standing, for Hals to paint them just as they would sit or stand to be measured for a suit of clothes. Look at the heads of the man and the woman in the National Gallery. Could anything be more natural and unassuming? Look at the Laughing Cavalier, and ask if it is not the man himself, as Hals saw and knew him, not a faked up hero? Hals caught him in his best clothes, that is all. He did not put them on to be painted in—he was out on a jaunt. Look at Hals's women, how pleased they are to be painted, just as they are.

Poor Hals, he was a good, honest fellow, though sadly given to drink and low company. But for sheer genius he has never had an equal. The vast number of his paintings—many of which now only exist in copies—shows that with every predilection to ease and comfort, he could not help painting—it simply welled out of him. It was a natural gift which seems to have needed no labour and no study.

It is certain that this fecundity was a very potent factor in the development of the Dutch School of painting. Had Hals confined his talent to painting the portraits of the highest in the land, which would never have been seen by the public at large, it is improbable that such a business-like community would have produced many painters. But Hals must have popularised painting much more than we generally suppose. An example occurs to me in the picture of The Rommelpot Player, of which no less than thirteen versions are enumerated by De Groot, none of which can claim to be the original. One is at Wilton, another in Sir Frederick Cook's gallery at Richmond, and a third at Arthingworth Hall in Northamptonshire.

Louvre, Paris

The subject is an old beggar man playing in front of the door of a cottage on a ridiculous instrument consisting of an earthen pot covered over like a jampot with a lid of parchment, on which he makes a rude noise with a stick, to the intense delight of a group of children. A picture like this, then, it is evident, instead of hanging in solitary confinement in the house of a great person, was so widely popular that it was copied on all sides, and must have been seen by thousands of people.

Next to Hals, in point of time, was Hendrik Gerritz Pot, who was born, probably at Haarlem, in 1585. It is to him rather than to Ostade, who was a quarter of a century later, that we must trace the origin of smaller genre pictures of the Dutch School which in later years became its principal product. Pot's works are neither very important nor very numerous, but as a portrait painter he is represented in the Louvre by a portrait of Charles I., which was probably painted when he was in England in 1631 or thereabouts; while at Hampton Court is a beautiful little piece by him which is catalogued under the title of A Startling Introduction. This belonged to Charles I., for his cypher is branded on the back of the panel on which it is painted, and it was sold by the Commonwealth as "a souldier making a strange posture to a Dutch lady by Bott." The painter's monogram H.P. appears on the large chimney piece before which the "soldier" is standing.

Gerard Honthorst, born at Utrecht in 1590, can hardly be said to belong to the Dutch School at all. When he was only twenty he went to Rome, where his devotion to painting effects of candle-light earned him the sobriquet of "Gherardo della Notte." In 1628 he was elected Dean of the Guild of St. Luke at Utrecht, but he was in no sense a national painter, and neither took nor gave anything in the way of national influence. He was in England for a few months in 1628, to which chance we are indebted for the picture of the Duke of Buckingham and his family which is in the National Portrait Gallery, and another group of the Cavendish family which is at Chatsworth. Pictures of the nobility, or of celebrities like Harvey, the discoverer of the circulation of the blood, were more in his line than those of his republican patriots, and consequently he plays no part in the development of the school we are now considering.

Bartholomew van Der Helst, born in Amsterdam, 1613, died there 1670. He is by far the most renowned of the Dutch portrait-painters of this period. Although nothing is known as regards the master under whom he studied, it is probable that if Hals was not actually his teacher, his works were the models whence Van der Helst formed himself. We see this in the portrait of Vice-Admiral Kortenaar at Amsterdam, where the conception of forms, and the unscumbled character of the strokes of the brush, recall Hals. The same may be observed in two larger pictures with archers in the Town Hall at Haarlem, where the inartistic arrangement and monotony of the otherwise warm flesh tones point to the earlier time of the painter. By about the year 1640 his character was more fully developed. His arrangement of portrait-pieces with numerous figures became very artistic and easy, his tone excellent, and his drawing masterly. This standard of excellence he retained till about 1660. The following are principal pictures of this period:—A scene from the Archery Guild of Amsterdam in 1639, including thirty figures. The celebrated picture inscribed 1648, an Archery Festival commemorating the Peace of Westphalia, and consisting of a party of twenty-four persons, at Amsterdam. The chief charm of this work consists in the strong and truthful individuality of every part, both in form and colour; in the capital drawing, which is especially conspicuous in the hands; in the powerful and clear colouring; and finally, in a kind of execution which observes a happy medium between decision and softness. In 1657 he executed the picture of the Archery Guild known by the name "het Doelenstück" at Amsterdam Gallery. This work represents three of the overseers of the Guild, with golden prize vases, and a fourth supposed to be the painter himself. It is almost surpassed by a replica on a smaller scale executed in the following year, which is now in the Louvre. At all events, this picture is in better preservation, and offers one of the most typical examples of portrait-painting that the Dutch School produced.