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SUR GÉRARD DOW.
montrent une parfaite imitation de la nature. Gérard Dow, pour y parvenir avec plus de facilité, imagina différens moyens : l'un était d'avoir un verre concave, au travers duquel il regardait l'objet qu'il voulait peindre, de manière à n'avoir plus qu'à le copier, sans penser à le réduire; l'autre était d'avoir un châssis avec des fils qui correspondaient aux carreaux tracés sur son panneau. Cette pratique qui peut offrir quelque commodité n'est pas sans inconvéniens; elle empêche l'œil d'acquérir la justesse nécessaire pour bien rendre les objets qu'il voit.
Gérard Dow a presque toujours choisi des sujets de peu d'étendue et de peu de mouvement qui prêtaient facilement à une exacte initation. Ses tableaux sont tous d'une très petite dimension. On doit cependant en excepter le célèbre tableau de la Femme hydropique; car le grand tableau de la Décollation de saint Jean que l'on voit à Rome dans l'église de Sainte-Marie della Scala, et qu'on lui a souvent attribué, n'est pas de lui, mais de Gérard Hondhorst.
Naturellement laborieux, Gérard Dow acquit une fortune d'autant plus considérable, qu'il mourut dans un âge avancé, mais on ne sait en quelle année. Corneille de Bie, écrivant en 1662, dit qu'il vivait à Leyde en cette année-là.
Plusieurs de ses élèves ont suivi sa manière avec succès : les plus remarquables sont Scalken, Mieris, Slingelandt et Charles de Moor.
Gérard Dow a fait fort peu de dessins; on trouve cependant de lui quelques portraits au crayon rouge estompé, avec des touches fermes et d'un bon sentiment.
Ses tableaux passent le nombre de soixante; plusieurs ont été gravés en mezzotinte par Sarrabat, Verkolie, Kauperz, Valk et Jean Raphaël Smith; d'autres au burin par Beauvarlet, Gaillard, Kruger, P. G. Moitte et Voyer: mais le graveur qui les a le mieux rendus est le célèbre J. G. Wille.
HISTORICAL AND CRITICAL
Several Dutch Painters have become remarkable for the high finish of their pictures, and all, in that style, have imitated Gerard Dow but none have possessed the art of giving the accessories and details, with the utmost precision, without injuring, or rather neglecting, the effects of the light and shade, and of harmony in general. This Artist is therefore considered as the head of that School, and is always mentioned by Amateurs of this species of talent, as the most perfect standard.
Gerard Dow was born at Leyden, in 1613: his father was a glazier, a profession, at that time, not foreign to the Fine Arts, as painted windows were still in fashion. Gerard was at first put under the Engraver Bartholomew Dolendo, of whom he learnt Drawing: he afterwards worked under Peter Kouwhoorn, a glass painter, that he might assist his father, but his rapid progress soon induced his family to allow him to follow solely the profession of painting. When 15 years old, he was admitted into Rembrandt's Atelier, and three years' practice under that skilful master were sufficient for his talent to become known. Like his master, he has often illumined the objects, from above, by a narrow, and consequently, a very vivid light. But he resembles him in no other point. Rembrandt always seems enthusiastic and imaginative: Gerard Dow only
HISTORICAL AND CRITICAL NOTICE
appears a patient and persevering imitator of cold, and almost lifeless, nature. The master has an off-hand style of painting, which viewed closely appears neglected, and seen at a certain distance produces the grandest effect: the pupil on the contrary, with a surer hand, has a neat and careful style, which appears the more astonishing, the nearer it is examined.
Gerard Dow at first did some portraits, but bearing all his attention to a high finish in all the parts, he fatigued the patience of his models, whose features became altered through wearisomeness and thus disabled the painter from producing agreeable likenesses. Gerard Dow put the greatest care even in his preparations; he ground his colours himself, kept his canvass, palette, pencils, and colours, in a box closely shut up, to preserve them from the slightest dust. When he came to work, he would enter his study softly, and would sit down with great precaution; then, remaining a few moments perfectly still, he would open his box, only when he thought there could be no dust floating in the air. It may be well supposed that with so much preliminary care, Gerard Dow must have taken still more, whilst working: it is said that in a small picture representing Spieringer's Family, it took him five days to paint one of the hands only. It is even asserted that in another of his pictures, no doubt the Young Housewife, he was three days, painting the broomstick.
So much attention to trivialities does not however prevent his pictures being full of merit. Although patience seems contrary to that freedom required in painting, still in this case, his minuteness has nothing laboured, dry, or ridiculous. His pictures are so many masterpieces of taste, of a true and spirited effect, displaying a perfect imitation of nature, which to reach, the more easily G. Dow invented different methods the one was to have a concave glass, through which he looked at the obect he wished to paint, so that he had but to copy it, without
attending to the reducing; the other was to have a frame, with threads, corresponding to the squares marked on his board. This habit, though it may offer advantages, is not without inconveniencies: it prevents the eye from acquiring that accuracy so essential to give faithfully the objects seen.
Gerard Dow has almost always chosen subjects of little extent and of little action, lending easily to an exact imitation. All his pictures are of very small dimensions. The Dropsical Woman must however be excepted. As to the great picture of the Decollation of St. John seen in the Church of Santa Maria della Scala, at Rome, and which has often been attributed to Gerard Dow, it is not by him, but by Gerard Hondhorst.
Naturally laborious, Gerard Dow acquired a fortune the more considerable, as he died at an advanced age: but the year is known. Cornelius Bie who wrote in 1662, says that Gerard Dow was that year living at Leyden.
Several of his pupils have successfully followed his manner : the more remarkable are, Scalken, Mieris, Slingelandt, and Charles de Moor.
Gerard Dow did very few drawings: there are however a few portraits by him in red stumped crayons, with firm and spirited touches.
His paintings exceed sixty in number : several have been engraved in Mezzotinto by Sarrabat, Verkolie, Kauperz, Valk, and John Raphael Smith: others in the Line Manner by Beauvarlet, Gaillard, Kruger, P. G. Moitte, and Voyer: but the engraver who has done him most justice is the celebrated J. G. Wille.