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Randall Davies

Coming to the second period in the development of the new art—roughly, that is to say, from 1400 to 1450—Vasari observes that even where there is no great facility displayed, yet the works evince great care and thought; the manner is more free and graceful, the colouring more varied and pleasing; more figures are employed in the compositions, and the drawing is more correct inasmuch as it is closer to nature.

But the greatest of all the Dutch painters, in some ways the greatest painter that has ever lived, was Rembrandt van Ryn (1606-1669). Beside him all the rest seem merely commonplace, and their works the product of this or that demand, according to their different times and circumstances, executed with more or less skill.

In England, meantime, great things were being accomplished amid peaceful surroundings. In portraiture Lawrence soon became supreme, and what excellence he possessed was accentuated on his death in 1830 by the appointment of Sir Martin Archer Shee as his successor in the Presidency of the Royal Academy. That was the end of portraiture in England until a new school arose.

Three names stand out conspicuously from the ranks of Florentine painters in the latter half of the fifteenth century. But progress being one of the essential characteristics of the art at this period, as in all others, it is not surprising that the order of their fame coincides (inversely) pretty nearly with that of their date.

The painters of genre, by the number, quality, and diversity of whose pictures the Dutch School is specially distinguished, may be roughly divided into three classes; namely, those who studied the upper, the middle, and the lower classes respectively.

Let us now cross the channel again, and see what is going on there, in 1863. Evidently there is something on, or there would not be so much excitement. As we approach the Capital we are aware of one name being prominent in the general uproar—that of Édouard Manet.

Twelve years younger than Botticelli was Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1520), whose career as a painter commenced in the workshop of Andrea Verrocchio, goldsmith, painter, and sculptor.

As a link between the painters of genre and the landscapists, we may here mention some of the numerous artists who either made landscape the background for groups of figures and animals, or peopled their landscapes with groups—it matters not which way we put it. Among these we shall find several of the most famous, or at any rate the most popular artists of the Dutch School.

The last revolt of the nineteenth century was effected in a peaceable and business-like, but none the less successful manner, by the establishment, in 1886, of the New English Art Club as a means of defence against the mighty vis inertiæ of the Royal Academy.

In the opening years of the sixteenth century the art of painting had attained such a pitch of excellence that unless carried onward by a supreme genius it could hardly hope to escape from the common lot of all things in nature, and begin to decline. After Botticelli and Leonardo, the works of Andrea del Sarto, "the perfect painter" as he has been called, fall rather flat; and no less a prodigy than Michelangelo was capable of excelling his marvellous predecessors, or than Raphael of rivalling them.

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