Huysum, John Van

, an illustrious painter who surpassed all who have ever painted in his style, and whose works excite as much surprise by their finishing, as admiration by their truth, was born at Amsterdam in 1682, and was a disciple of Justus Van Huysum, his father. He set out in his profession with a most commendable principle, not so much to paint for the acquisition of money, as of fame; and therefore he did not aim at expedition, but at delicacy, and if possible, to arrive at perfection in his art. Having attentively studied the pictures of Mignon, and all other artists of distinction who had painted in his own style, he tried which manner would soonest lead htm to imitate the lightness and singular beauties of each flower, fruit, or plant; and then fixed on a manner peculiar to himself, which seems almost inimitable. He soon received the most deserved applause from the ablest judges of painting; even those who furnished him with the loveliest flowers, confessing that there was somewhat in his colouring and pencilling that rendered every object more beautiful, if possible, than even nature itself. His pictures are finished with inconceivable truth; for he painted every tiling after nature, and was so singularly exact, as to watch even the hour of the day in which his model appeared in its greatest perfection.

By the judicious he was accounted to paint with greater freedom than Mignon or Brueghel; with more tendernessand nature than Mario da Fiori, Michael Angelo dr Campidoglio, or Segers; with more mellowness than De Heem, and greater force of colouring than Baptist. His reputation rose to such a height at last, that he fixed immoderate prices on his works; so that none but the very opulent could pretend to become purchasers. Six of his paintings were sold, at a public sale in Holland, for prices that were almost incredible. One of them, a flower-piece, for fourteen hundred and fifty guilders; a fruit-piece, for a thousand and five guilders; and the smaller pictures for nine hupdred. These vast sums caused him to redouble his endeavours to excel; no person was admitted into his room while he was painting, not even his brothers; and his method of mixing the tints, and preserving the lustre of his colours, was an impenetrable secret which he never would disclose. From the same principle he would never take any disciples, except one lady, named Haverman, and he grew envious and jealous even of her merit. | By several domestic disquiets, his temper became changed; he grew morose, fretful, and apt to withdraw himself from society. He had many enviers of his fame, which has ever been the severe lot of the most deserving in all professions; but he continued to work, and his reputation never diminished. It is universally agreed, that hd lias excelled all who have painted fruit and flowers before him, by the confessed superiority of his touch, by the delicacy of his pencil, an-d by an amazing manner of finishing; nor does it ap’pear probable that any future artist will ever become his competitor. The care which he took to. purify his oils, and prepare his colours, and the various experiments he made to discover the most lustrous and durable, is another instance of his extraordinary care and capacity.

From having observed some of his works that were perfectly, finished, some only half finished, and others only begun, the principles by which he conducted himself may perhaps be discoverable. His cloths were prepared with the greatest eare, and primed with white, with all possible purity, to prevent his colours from being obscured, as he laid them on very lightly. He glazed all other colours, except the clear and transparent, not omitting even the white ones, till he found the exact tone of the colour; and over that he finished the forms, the lights, the shadows, and the reflections which are all executed with precision and warmth, withoutdryness or negligence. The greatest truth, united with the greatest brilliancy, and a velvet softness on the surface of his objects, are visible in every part of his compositions; and as to his touch, it looks like the pencil of nature. Whenever be represented flowers placed in vases, he always painted those vases after some elegant model, and the bas-relief is as exquisitely finished as any of the other parts. Through the whole he shews a delicate composition, a fine harmony, and a most happy effect of light and shadow. Those pictures which he painted on a clear ground, are preferred to others of his- hand, as having greater lustre and as they demanded more care and exactness in the finishing yet there are some on a darkish ground, in which appears rather more force and harmony.

It is observed of him, that in the grouping of his flowers, he generally designed those which were brightest in the centre, and gradually decreased the force of his colour from the centre to the extremities. The birds.‘ nests and | their eggs, the feathers, insects, and drops of dew, are’ expressed with the utmost truth, so as even to deceive the spectator. And yet, after all this merited and just praise, it cannot but be confessed, that sometimes his fruits appear like wax or ivory, without that peculiar softness and warmth w 1 ich is constantly observable in nature. Beside his merit as a flower-painter, he also painted landscapes with great applause. They are well composed and although he had never seen Rome, he adorned his scenes with the noble remains of ancient magnificence which are in that city. His pictures in that style are well coloured, and every tree is distinguished by a touch that is proper for the leafing. The grounds are well broken, and disposed with taste and judgment; the figures are designed in the manner of JLairesse, highly finished, and touched with a great deal of spirit; and through the whole composition, the scene represents Italy, in the trees, the clouds, and the skies. He died in 1749, aged sixty-seven.

Of his brothers, Justus Van Huysum was born at Amsterdam, and died when he had arrived only at his twentysecond year. He painted battles in a large and a small size, with exceeding readiness and freedom, without having recourse to any models; and he composed his subjects merely by the power of his own lively imagination, disposing them also with judgment and taste and Jacob Van Huysum, also born at Amsterdam, in 1680, died at London, where he had resided for several years. His merit chiefly consisted in imitating the works of his brother John; which he did with so much critical exactness, beauty, and delicacy, as frequently to deceive the most sagacious connoisseurs and he usually had twenty guineas for each copy. He also composed subjects of his own invention in the same style, which were very much prized; and his paintings increased in their value like those of his brother Jfohn. He died in 1740. 1


Pilkiagton. Argeaville, vol. III. Walpole’s Anecdotes.