rijsoord banner

(Keramic studio, New York and Syracuse, a montly magazine (Anna B. Leonard, Adelaide Alsop Robineau) (February 1902, vol. III, No. 10))

[Written for the New York Society.]

Mary Alley Neal

SKETCHING in Holland is not unlike sketching in America; there are two very essential things in out door sketching, one is an angelic disposition, the other plenty of patience.
Here you have many things to contend with, such as too much mud, or the sun is out when you want it gray, or vice versa, and mosquitoes and midgets, and no one knows what these latter are until you meet them while you are sketching; in Holland, you have added to these the pest of the children, and the difficulties that arise from not speaking the language, German is of very little use and only the' educated people speak French. You occasionally meet with English, and the Dutch language is difficult, but you can readily pick up a few words and sentences so you can be understood. The cities I did not find very paintable, The Hague being the most picturesque. Here you have the beautiful wood, the trunks of the trees having an intense green, through which runs the road that Napoleon laid out to the fishing village of Scheveningen. The most interesting city to paint is Dordrecht, Hopkinson Smith's Dort, which you all know from his writing and paintings; in all the country around are some of the oldest wind-mills, some of them built in the fifteenth century, and many lovely picture subjects. I found the country towns more paintable perhaps because I love the green fields and country scenes. Holland has its drawbacks, one great one is that it is not considered healthy in some parts. Volendam, one of the most picturesque places in Holland, and to me, the one having the prettiest costumes, is most unhealthy, many people having fever there.
I spent nearly a month in the little town of Laren. This is where Krever and Newhuys [Albert Neuhuys 1844-1914] have their studios, and where Mauve found many of his subjects. Some are the same now and some have changed much by the growth of trees and shrubs. The country is interesting, it has pine woods, beyond which are beautiful sand dunes, and in the Fall, heather in the greatest abundance. It has only one wind-mill.
Everything in Holland is a picture, in America you often have to hunt your subject. Artists say it is not the subject, but how you paint it, that makes the picture. But I find that the people who want to buy, as a rule, look for the subject rather than the technique. There the people with their quaint costumes, whether it is the man in his velveteen trousers, blue shirt and clumpen or wooden shoes, plowing in the field, or the woman coming down the lane with her milk cans hanging from a wooden yoke on her shoulders, or the children, all blend in with the low toned coloring of the landscape.
Each little town in Holland has its own particular costume and different caps, the unmarried women wear a different cap, the still older women wearing the crullers, the richer they are the more twists they have to them. But these will soon pass away as my frau told me it was impossible to get the young girls to wear the caps now, they have so many of the modern ideas.
As it rains in Holland a great deal, it is always well to have interior subjects on hand, and Laren is noted for its interiors. As many people are doing the same thing you have to watch your chance to engage the house and models you want, and the people think nothing of it when you knock at their doors and in the best Dutch you know, you ask them to let you look at their interior and ask to see themselves and what poses they have. If you like it you decide to work one or two weeks or the length of time you desire, and engage them, then that interior and the models are yours for the small amount of one gulden a morning, which is 42 cents of our money. No one can paint there or use your models while you are there.
For landscapes, I went to Rizzoord [Rijsoord], and staid with the dearest old Frau, Frau Noorlander, in a little wooden cottage on the River Naal. As Holland is alow country your horizon is naturally placed low on your canvas, which gives you a fine opportunity for the study of clouds and sky: and what skies they are! always beautiful in effect. It often rains with the sun out. Having no fences the fields are divided by slotes about three feet wide and very deep, which the cows never think of crossing. Here you have the opportunity of studying the figure with the landscape, as the men and women work together in the fields at the time of flax gathering, and haying and milking time: there also are the beautiful Holstein cows. The little town is built on the banks of the River Naal [Waal] and the low cottages with their thatched roof and the beautiful tree forms with reflections in the water give many subjects.
Other interesting places are Alkamaar [Alkmaar], with its cheese market on Fridays, people coming with thousands of cheeses to the market place to sell them and have them weighed; Jaandam [Zaandam], where there are many windmills, of every shape: it is called the forest of windmills, and Katnyk [Katwijk], a fishing village near Leyden, very much like Scheveningen, only more quiet. Here in September you have ample opportunity to study the people : when the fishing boats come in the women all come to the beach with their baskets. There are many beautiful canal trips all through Holland, the most beautiful to me is the one from Delft to Rotterdam. Holland is also a fine place for trips on your wheel, or as they call them, feitsryders [fietsrijders]. I found many of the country people interested in art; they fill the galleries studying the old masters, and, strange to say, knew what you were drawing and could criticize intelligently. I once thought I really knew how to draw, when a woman recognized herself from a few blue lines ; I had on my paper just outlined a woman kneeling on a board, washing in the river. As I mentioned before, the children pester you to death, throw stones at you, upset your water and paint box if the)? can. I have tried talking to them and keeping still, both with the same result. But with all its drawbacks Holland is charming to be in and to paint in. I think sketching is like a game of solitaire; you always want to try just once more, sure you will get it the next time.

Keramic studio, New York and Syracuse (February 1902)