FLEMISH PAINTING.

Books Recommended: Busscher, Recherches sur les Peintres Gantois; Crowe and Cavalcaselle, Early Flemish Painters; Cust, Van Dyck; Dehaisnes, L'Art dans la Flandre; Du Jardin, L'art Flamand; Eisenmann, The Brothers Van Eyck; Fétis, Les Artistes Belges à l'Étranger; Fromentin, Old Masters of Belgium and Holland; Gerrits, Rubens zyn Tyd, etc.; Guiffrey, Van Dyck; Hasselt, Histoire de Rubens; (Waagen's) Kügler, Handbook of Painting—German, Flemish, and Dutch Schools; Lemonnier, Histoire des Arts en Belgique; Mantz, Adrien Brouwer; Michel, Rubens; Michiels, Rubens en l'École d'Anvers; Michiels, Histoire de la Peinture Flamande; Stevenson, Rubens; Van den Branden, Geschiedenis der Antwerpsche Schilderschool; Van Mander, Le Livre des Peintres; Waagen,Uber Hubert und Jan Van Eyck; Waagen, Peter Paul Rubens; Wauters, Rogier van der Weyden; Wauters, La Peinture Flamande; Weale, Hans Memling (Arundel Soc.); Weale, Notes sur Jean Van Eyck.

THE FLEMISH PEOPLE: Individually and nationally the Flemings were strugglers against adverse circumstances from the beginning. A realistic race with practical ideas, a people rather warm of impulse and free in habits, they combined some German sentiment with French liveliness and gayety. The solidarity of the nation was not accomplished until after 1385, when the Dukes of Burgundy began to extend their power over the Low Countries. Then the Flemish people became strong enough to defy both Germany and France, and wealthy enough, through their commerce with Spain, Italy, and France to encourage art not only at the Ducal court but in the churches, and among the citizens of the various towns.

FIG. 74.—VAN EYCKS. ST. BAVON ALTAR-PIECE (WING). BERLIN.FIG. 74.—VAN EYCKS. ST. BAVON ALTAR-PIECE (WING). BERLIN.

FLEMISH SUBJECTS AND METHODS: As in all the countries of Europe, the early Flemish painting pictured Christian subjects primarily. The great bulk of it was church altar-pieces, though side by side with this was an admirable portraiture, some knowledge of landscape, and some exposition of allegorical subjects. In means and methods it was quite original. The early history is lost, but if Flemish painting was beholden to the painting of any other nation, it was to the miniature painting of France. There is, however, no positive record of this. The Flemings seem to have begun by themselves, and pictured the life about them in their own way. They were apparently not influenced at first by Italy. There were no antique influences, no excavated marbles to copy, no Byzantine traditions left to follow. At first their art was exact and minute in detail, but not well grasped in the mass. The compositions were huddled, the landscapes pure but finical, the figures inclined to slimness, awkwardness, and angularity in the lines of form or drapery, and uncertain in action. To offset this there was a positive realism in textures, perspective, color, tone, light, and atmosphere. The effect of the whole was odd and strained, but the effect of the part was to convince one that the Flemish painters were excellent craftsmen in detail, skilled with the brush, and shrewd observers of nature in a purely picturesque way.

To the Flemish painters of the fifteenth century belongs, not the invention of oil-painting, for it was known before their time, but its acceptable application in picture-making. They applied oil with color to produce brilliancy and warmth of effect, to insure firmness and body in the work, and to carry out textural effects in stuffs, marbles, metals, and the like. So far as we know there never was much use of distemper, or fresco-work upon the walls of buildings. The oil medium came into vogue when the miniatures and illuminations of the early days had expanded into panel pictures. The size of the miniature was increased, but the minute method of finishing was not laid aside. Some time afterward painting with oil upon canvas was adopted.