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(door Julia Helen eynemann (pseudoniem Van Dyck Brown); ze vertrekt vanaf via Dordrecht naar België)

A California Artist in Holland and Belgium and a XVI Century Aubrey Beardsley

OF ANTWERP it has been said that the desire and
love of wealth is the luling passion. An old monk
once wrote that Brussels could boast of noble men,
Antwerp of money, Bruges could show the prettiest
girls. Louvain was justly proud of her learned men,
and the poor town of Ghent could only produce
the halters which marked the humiliations to which
her turbulent citizens were so frequently subjected,
the lordship of Malines was chiefly remark-
able for the fools which inhabited it. I believe the reputation for unusual
simplicity dated from the story that the citizens of Malines once at-
tempted to extinguish the moon shining through their cathedral tower,
mistaking the radiance for a fire.
Every town in Holland or Belgium is within a few hours of every
other town; therefore the resolve to visit Antwerp or Bruges needs no
more deliberation than a sudden irresistible impulse to visit East Oakland
or Petaluma, only there is this difference. In California the mighty

resolve to travel need not be communicated to all the neighbors, nor does
it awaken in their minds any overwhelming anguish of interest. To leave
a town in Holland in order to cross the border into Belgium is a grave
matter; to leave a little village [= Rijsoord]for the same purpose is to become a public
A little ramshackle carriage, with flapping tarpaulin blinds, stops
before the door. It is called the "rideout." The postman, Jan de
[= Zeeuw], knocks on the door and opens it, shouting in Dutch that it is time
to leave. This is the signal for the gathering of the clans, and the de-
parture is accomplished only after innumerable handshakes and nods of
the head and repeated good wishes for a safe journey. The children fol-
low the rideout as long as possible, clattering over the stones with their
wooden shoes and giving vent to their excitement in earsplitting yells.
Oh! the tender charms of childhood !
The road to Dordrecht is beautiful. It is autumnal September, but
the landscape has the soft freshness of early spring in California. An

avenue of giant elms, remarkable even for this land of stately trees,
points the way. Napoleon laid it out and it is quite as suggestive of his
taste for magnificence and pomp as the great tomb under the golden dome
of the invalides in Paris. It is a road for a king to drive through in a
royal chariot. The little rideout, however, bumps along behind an
ancient horse with admirable cheerfulness. In the center of the avenue
the thick tree trunks rise like the pillars of a Gothic cathedral and the
overarching branches meet high above the head; the sunlight is subdued
like the light through siained-glass windows, and at either end of the van-
ishing aisle a faint blue mist rises like incense.
Between the trees, as within a frame, you see constantly changing
pictures of Dutch peasant life, ia the fresh, keen, early morning air. The
women are already bending over their work in the fields or washing at the
edge of their garden in the little silver streams. The lields roll away to
the distance, an emerald sea, and away in the horizon is the inevitable
veil of mist.
A number of sentimental last impressions are rudely broken in upon
by the appearance of a woman, who empties into her own particular "little silver stream" a
choice collection of potato parings, flax and salad leaves, an
"olla podrida" that brings to the mind of the unwilling observer an instantaneous calcula-
tion: Huw many shining silver streams — typhoid fever? How
much delicate veiling of blue mist, aaded to constant exposure
and weariness, may amount to chronic malaria?
To reach Dordrecht it is necessary to cross the River Maas. A
ferry-boat of the size of a steam launch is provided for foot-pas-
seugers and a clean mudscow for the transportation of ve-
hicles. The ferry puffs across, or waggles across, more prop-
erly speaking, with the directness of aim and purpose so often
to be remarked in the little tin boats and fishes you may have
propelled in a basin in early youth. At the end it makes a
dash for the landing much as a drunken man collects himself
for a final effort at his own front door. Dordrecht, or Dort, as it
is called, looks like a pnantom city it is in the early morning,
wrapped in mists that the pale sunlight tries vainly to dispel.
The windmills stand motionless line great spider-webs and the towers of the Town Hall
and the Groote Kerk (the Big Church) look like the masts of ships way out at sea.
It is a curious little town. Under the walls the sea-going vessels come sliding in and huge rafts
I with timber from German forests come floating down to the feet of the windmills.
The streets run up and down and around the corner and back again,
with a piquant irregularity, and are crowded with women in quaint caps
and little dogcarts piled high with vegetables and children.
Upon leaving the town the train crosses an immense arm of the sea,
which was formed centuries ago by an inundation, to which the Johnstown
disaster was nothing. The arduously conquered soil was divided
into a hundred islands. Towns and villages were swept away and the loss
of life was horrible. It is called the "reed forest." From Dordrecht to
Antwerp is a distance to be traversed in less than two hours, but the
difference in the character of the two countries is hardly less than may be
found between the extreme East and the extreme West of the United
Immediately on the Belgian frontier the trees strike for freedom.

No more avenues, forced to march with the precision of regiments of
soldiers, sometimes allowed to grow only on two sides, the great branches
clipped at tho trunk where they threatened to rebel. Instead of the
eternal straight lines an insolent little pine forest of young trees straggles
away from the train. They stand in ragged groups, their heads together,
like whispering children, or they run after each other in twos and threes
or stand alone, su'king end silent.
The houses in the little villages are painted white, aad are gay
with vegetable gardens. The sky is a candid blue, and a few astonished
clouds that have most apparently lost their way are traveling back as fast
as they may to Holland.
The train flies through the pleasant country, that is like pleasant
countries all the world over, a little like France, even a little like Cal-
And suddenly here is Antwerp in the distance, and in another moment
I the station is reached and you are driving through the streets. Any town of which
you have read much, which plays I at once a romantic and heroic
part in the history of the past, which forms a background for
tragedies and operas, must be for an instant a disillusionment.
Everything modern is more or less out of place; even in the
Great square, the Place Verte, you look in vain for the dark,
rich, old Flemish houses, for that background of terrible
splendor against winch the Spanisn faces of the tyrants, the
horrors of the Inquisition, the struggles for freedom have been
so appropriately and picturesquely depicted. The sunny square is alive
with idlers. The carriages that line it have each a driver, who
cracks his whip and his joke with equal facility. American
girls, withpretty faces, and a Baedeker, most visible, go chat-
tering into the postoffice or cross the square to the street called
"The Shoe Matket" to invest in expensive little Antwerp toys,
miniature milk cans and wooden shoes. The statue of Rubens,
in the center of the square, is covered with leaves, but is not
wanting in the dignity which made the most remarkable
painter of his time an equally distinguished statesman and
diplomatist. In one corner of the square rises the big, black
weather-stained front of the Cathedral of Notre Dame. In the museum, which is
full of interesting things, we find the sketches for I these and other pictures. Rubens is king,
but hardly less remarkable are the examples of the work of other men — Van Dyck,
in his early period, like Rubens in sober moments; Franz Hals, in wonderful portraits, with such overwhelming
force and power that the pictures near them seem made of paper and painted with water.
Only one portrait stands the comparis on. It is that
of Simon de Vos, painted by himself. The figure of the painter stands
against a dull green background, in velvet of brownish black, one long,
fine hand holding a roll of paper, the while of the frill around the neck
and wrists of a rich subdued tone, and the face, that under a shower of
black hair, looks straight out of the canvas, wears an expression of such
smiling mockery that is almost like a personal affront. The eyes follow
the observer with intolerable superciliousness, an insolent gayety, at
once patronizing and contemptuous. And the maddening ease with which
it is painted does not lessen the astonishment of the simplicity of the sur-
roundings, even the lettering of the inscription which informs us that be
has lived in poverty, but introduces himself to every one with a blessing
upon them, down to the last day— a blessing which this particular ob-
server accepts with some resentment.
A Quintin Massys leads us to the time-worn conclusion that there is
nothing new under the Bun. He is a sixteenth century Aubrey Beardsley.
The daughter of Herodias is a part of an altar-piece. She is in a dress of
heavy brocade, with a rich pattern; her pale little head, with red hair and
redder flower?, under a transparent veil, is finely and firmly drawn against
a flat, dark background, in which a whole scene takes place, as in a
tapestry. The curious position, the strange expression of the face, that is
almost alive with an animation that is far more wonder than horror, con-
vinces us that the sixteenth century draughtsman is still the superior of
his modern imitator, who might with advantage imitate not only the
quaintness and the archaic simplicity of his ancestor out a little of the
beauty and a great deal of the reserve of these old pictures.
One of the oldest buildings in Antwerp and by far the most interesting
is the Museum Piantin-Moretus, established in the house of Christopher
Plantin, the painter, who set up bis printing office in 1555. After the

middle of the seventeenth century they printed only mass and prayer
Something of the charm and interest which is attached to Nuremberg,
to Bruges, to Verona and to all old cities is re-enlivened before we leave
Antwerp, in spite of its well-swept modern streets and boulevard with
trees and residences of conventional stateliness. There are old streets and old buildings; the prison of the riotous, gay and devil-may-care tavern
painter Jan Steen; the funny little old church at the port: the port
itself. If the vessels of every nation do not fill the wide bay formed by
the Scheldt, as in the days when Antwerp rivaled Venice for its wealth
and prosperity, at least the scene is one of great animation.
After Antwerp Mechlin, or Malines, seems dreary and dead. Empty
streets, empty squares, around the churches crowds of ragged children,
who strike out rudely if you refuse them alms. The children are every-
where, they swing on iron chains in the great empty marketplace, where
a meager fair, a sale of decrepit furniture and ragged clothes and broken
pottery attracts a few curious spectators.

San Francisco Call, Volume 80, Number 133, 11 October 1896