Matthijs Maris

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Self-portrait of Matthijs Maris, c. 1875

Matthijs Maris (17 August 1839 – London 22 August 1917) was a Dutch painter, etcher and lithographer. He was also known as Thijs Maris. He initially belonged to the Hague School, like his two brothers, Jacob Maris and Willem Maris. His later painting art changed more and more into fluently and misty images of figures, without line, contour or contrast - often young children and girls.

Quotes of Matthijs Maris[edit]

Matthijs Maris, 1857: 'Portrait of his brother Jacob Maris', (painted in Paris), oil on canvas; - Quote of their friend Antoine Artz: 'Matthijs started with the left eye.. .the [left] eye finished, he started to paint around it the details of forehead, nose, the right eye, the mouth, etc.. ..until he finally enclosed all of these with the contour of the head..'
Matthijs Maris, 1860: 'A Corner of the Hague / Een deel van Den Haag', oil on cardboard mounted on wood panel
Matthijs Maris, 1863: 'City View / Stadsgezicht', oil on canvas
Matthijs Maris, c. 1865: 'Getting acquainted (The little goat) / De kleine Geit', oil-painting on panel
Matthijs Maris, 1875: 'The Goatherd / Geiten-herderin', painting
Matthijs Maris, 1877: 'Sprookje / Fairytale', oil-painting on panel
Matthijs Maris, 1887: 'The Bride, or Novice taking the Veil / De Kerk-bruid', oil-painting
Matthijs Maris, c. 1880-90: 'De Dromer / The Dreamer, painting
Matthijs Maris, c. 1890: 'magic Castle / Betoverd Kasteel', drawing in chalk and charcoal
Matthijs Maris, c. 1890: 'Extase / Ecstasy', colored crayon
Matthijs Maris, c. 1890: 'geen titel: een hoofd / no title: a head', painting
  • Thijs, Thijs, you came to a people [of Paris], when they were doing well, now you must help them, when they are in distress. (translation from original Dutch, Fons Heijnsbroek, 2018)
    • version in original Dutch / citaat van J. H. Weissenbruch, in het Nederlands: Thijs, Thijs, je bent bij een volk gekomen [in Parijs], toen het hun goed ging, nou mot je ze ook helpen nou ze in nood zitten.
      • Quote of Matthijs in his letter to Fidolin Becker, from Paris 1870-71; as cited by Haverkorn v. R. in Onze Kunst, 1918 - 2. p. 122 and beyond
      • Thijs registered with the National Guard, to defend the Paris' people against the Germans. Later Thijs told however he never loaded his rifle, he was only guarding. Later he got a lot of sympathy for pacifism.
  • Last year I asked too much of my strength. I can't go on like this. it was not possible for me, I had to step back, I didn't make anything but stones [about his paintings?] ... They wanted to see beautiful paintings but I still couldn't make them, one illusion disappears for the other. I have made Cold reality, and I have made Truth. Is there a truth, also the cold reality is a truth. What exists between them was [only] baroque convention. I threw away everything in the stove.. .I am messing up my time with them; what is nothing more than material is no art to me; I could not bring it out.. (translation from original Dutch, Fons Heijnsbroek, 2018)
    • version in original Dutch / citaat van J. H. Weissenbruch, in het Nederlands: Ik heb verleden jaar een beetje te veel van mijn krachten gevergd, ik kan dat niet volhouden, het was mij niet mogelijk, ik moest weder terug, ik heb niets zitten maken als steenen [over zijn schilderijen?].. .Zij hebben van mij mooie schilderijen willen zien en ik heb ze nog niet kunnen maken, de eene illusie verdwijnt voor de andere, ik heb de koude werkelijkheid gemaakt, en ik heb de Waarheid gemaakt. Is er een waarheid, de koude werkelijkheid is ook een waarheid. Wat daartusschen ligt was baroque conventie. Ik heb alles in de kachel gestopt.. ..ik zit er mijn tijd op te verknoeien; wat materieel is, is voor mij geen kunst. Ik heb die er niet uit kunnen brengen.
  • Just at the time I got your letter Mr. Angus sent me the 'Scotsman' [magazine]. You say some critics have thought it fair to make it the basis of a personal attack, and it is very critic-like. Critic means knife, means dissection, means wisdom, means perfection. Art is stupid, art-less. That is a hard job for the critic to understand. I like your book because it is 'stupid', like Japanese; which means done for the love of it in itself; not for gain or success. You don't go to criticise a Japanese drawing and say it is out of shape, out of drawing, no perspective nor anatomy. This is only for the critic to show his knowledge by killing the things; those stupid fellows do harm, like Whistler says, with their learnings. They must have schools and applications of knowledge. Thackeray calls them scavengers - scavengers are at least necessary, those fellows are for no good..
  • Besides (and I now quote the artist's own words) I never put a bullet in my gun, but only pretended, to do so!
  • My brother Jaap was born as a painter, which means he really enjoyed it. (translation from original Dutch, Fons Heijnsbroek, 2018)
    • version in original Dutch / citaat van Matthijs Maris, in het Nederlands: mijn broer Jaap was een geboren schilder which means, hij had er plezier in.
      • Quote of Matthijs c. 1890; in Jacob Maris (1837-1899), M. van Heteren and others; as cited in 'Ik denk in mijn materie', in exhibition catalog of Teylers Museum / Museum Jan Cunen), Zwolle 2003, p. 29
      • his remark shortly after Jacob's death, from London where Matthijs lived for many years
  • I liked the room [his new place in London, c. 1906] the moment I saw it, so here I am set up as a swell.. .Don't you take this to be a trap set up for the unwary, you know you're always touching a sore spot when you talk painting, and drag my suicides before the public, the right name for potboilers, one has to give up all aim for any good intention, and do the technical skill and cleverness to please those with halfpennies and farthings in their pocket, to be favoured to live.. .I just got a letter from somebody, saying: but with potboiling one can make money, money always considered to be the principal. I told him he was greatly mistaken, when a little honesty remains, one can scarcely ask anything for them.
  • I recollect after the war in '71 [in Paris, where he stayed then and was fighting against the German] there were some debts to pay of course: what had I to do? I said to Wisselingh [Dutch art-dealer] who was with Goupil, 'tell them that I'll take them back later on.' I've never been able to do so, for one Van Gogh [probably Vincent, then art-seller at Goupil], his partner, gave me 200 francs, someone bought it for 350, and sold it in America for 700 pounds. He had asked Wisselingh how long it had taken me to do [make] it; he said a week, so I was the chap for him; no wonder he was always talking making fortune, fancy 100 pounds per day, make some more or this sort: do it only for a year. So I had to commit suicides upon suicides [he means, making salable paintings]: what did it matter to him or anyone else ? Someone said once to me: 'You must have somebody fool enough to say, here is money for you, and go your own way': that is the very thing one may not do. There is always someone telling you how to set about, and then come the schools telling you that it is not allowed to be one's self, but that one has to be a Roman or Greek, or imitate what they have performed..
  • ..Besides of all things I hated and detested was painting. They told me I had a talent for it, and was a clever chap and could make as much money as I liked. Money always the principal thing and so it happens that I got forced into it. Being considered a very clever talented chap, after the war or siege of Paris [1870-71], a young fellow of the name of Vincent van Gogh [not painting yet, but still art-seller at Goupil in Paris] came around asking me for advice.. .The law of the pocket: 'full' signifies 'rich'; empty 'poor', all the world over the same; black, brown, yellow or white skinned. Heathen, barbarians, Mahommetans; pocket full, 'power' - empty, 'helpless'.

Quotes about Matthijs Maris[edit]

  • Some time ago I saw a painting by Thijs Maris that reminded me of it. An old Dutch town with rows of brownish red houses with step-gables and tall flights of steps, grey roofs, and white or yellow doors, window-frames and cornices; canals with ships and a large white drawbridge, a barge with a man at the tiller going under it.. .Some distance away a stone bridge over the canal, with people and a cart with white horses crossing it. And everywhere movement, a porter with his wheelbarrow, a man leaning against the railing, gazing into the water, women in black with white caps.. .A greyish white sky over everything...
  • Matthijs started with the left eye, which - since he painted the portrait à trois quarts - is about the center of the bud. The [left] eye finished, he started to paint around it the details of forehead, nose, the right eye, the mouth, etc.. ..until he finally enclosed all of these with the contour of the head and the light-brown background. (translation from original Dutch, Fons Heijnsbroek, 2018)
    • version in original Dutch / citaat van J. H. Weissenbruch, in het Nederlands: Matthijs begon met het linker-oog, dat, daar het portret a trois quarts geschilderd is, ongeveer het middenpunt van den knop uitmaakt. Met dat oog gereed, ging hij daaromheen de details schilderen van voorhoofd, neus, het rechteroog, den mond, enz.. ..tot hij dit alles eindelijk omsloot met den contour van het hoofd en het lichtbruine fond.
  • [I saw] landscapes, more color-visions than reality; ruins of castles ghostly shining through the mist, cobblestones, gently blown on the canvas..
    • [Ik zag] landschappen, meer kleurvisioenen dan werkelijkheid; ruïnes van kastelen, spookachtig door den nevel schijnend, kinderkopjes, op het doek geademd..
      • Quote of Berkenhoff, in De Gids, Dec. 1888
      • Matthijs showed Berkenhoff in 1888 his recent works, in his studio in London
  • Thijs knew everything by himself, he was a genius. (translation from original Dutch, Fons Heijnsbroek, 2018)
    • version in original Dutch / citaat van Jacob Maris, in het Nederlands: Thijs wist alles uit zich zelf, hij was een genie.
      • Quote of Jacob Maris about his brother Matthijs Maris, in a talk with G. H. Marius in: De Hollandsche Schilderkunst in de 19e eeuw, G. H. Marius; Martinus Nijhoff, s-Gravenhage, 1903/1920, p. 144
  • Take, as example, the early picture of the artist, the 'Souvenir of Amsterdam', [painted in 1871,].. .This measures only 18 ins. by 13 ins.. .Yet it is no exaggeration to say that this small canvas contains the essential features of the great Dutch city with its good half million inhabitants. The tall houses, the canals, the 'ophaalbruggen [drawbridges]' towering over everything - as the bridge always does, and must do, in a land under the level of the sea - the distant buildings and shipping. Everything.. ..that the commercial Capital of Holland says to the visitor is concentrated on these few square inches.. .I wanted to discuss this picture with Mr. Maris, for its goldenbrown colour went straight to my heart from the moment I first saw it, now many [30] years ago, but the artist would have none of it. 'Only a pot-boiler, made to coin a little necessary money, and one of my suicides..' [he said]
  • ..This master, one of the seers of the century, and a recluse resident in one of the most populous districts in London, has painted almost always his own ideas as compositions, and has practically avoided the obvious amongst his surroundings.. ..the subjects of Matthew Maris have been crystallisations of his dreams. Blown on the canvas, as it were, with practically no trace of the machinery of paint visible to distract, all the pictures of this mystic artist have soared to a height above the more material arrangements in his brothers' work [= Jacob Maris.] He has sought and found his inspiration from the least tangible of his surroundings, or from his heaven-born gift of exquisite dreams such as never materialise except to the seer whose life is hardly of this world at all.
  • It were mainly three or four [paintings] which kept him specifically busy [in the 1890's]. They were in progress for years already and he always spent hours and hours working on them - in which he wholly and truly disappeared into his work, persistently trying to perfect it in construction or composition and to saturate it with the life itself, of his soul - never satisfied with any result he achieved. Most of the time 'The Westmacott children' [and] 'The child with the Butterflies' were on his easel, and never they stayed the same with a next visit. They both had an expression that only he could give them.
    Sometimes, he acknowledged, he spent too many days working on one single work, with the inevitable danger of weakening his sensitivity by a lack of variety. Often it was sad to see that he could not leave them as they were..
    • Het waren vooral drie of vier [schilderijen] die hem bepaaldelijk bezighielden [in de jaren 1890]; zij waren trouwens reeds sinds jaren onderhanden en hij bracht er telkens uren aan uren mede door, waarin hij geheel en waarachtig in zijn werk opging, aanhoudend trachtend het te vervolmaken in bouw of compositie, het te doordrenken met het leven-zelf van zijn ziel, nooit voldaan met eenig verkregen resultaat. Het meest stonden 'De kinderen Westmacott', 'Het kindje met de Vlinders', op zijn ezel, en nooit waren zij bij een volgend bezoek hetzelfde. Zij hadden beide een uitdrukking, die alleen hij hun geven kon.
      Soms, erkende hij, bleef hij teveel dagen achtereen bezig aan één werk, met het onvermijdelijke gevaar om door gebrek aan afwisseling zijn gevoeligheid te verzwakken. Vaak was het droevig te zien, dat hij ze niet kon laten, zoals ze waren..
      • Quote of Ernest Fridlander, in Matthew Maris - an illustrated Souvenir, ed. D. Croal Thompson, E.D. Fridlander, F. Lessore en M.E. Sadler, Londen, 1918
  • As far as 'Melancholy' concerned, or as he liked to call it 'Evaporated Dreams', on that painting he worked most times during the last years of his life, when his eyes got less and less reliable. When he died the painting stood on his easel. Often he spoke about it with bitterness, as if it should express the nature of his own life. With his almost lost drawing [using no lines] and his subdued color, it sometimes seemed to me the saddest possible emblem of all the unhappiness of his fate.
    • Wat 'Weemoed' betreft, of zoals hij het noemde 'Vervlogen Droomen', daaraan werkte hij het meest in de laatste jaren van zijn leven, toen zijn gezicht hoe langer hoe minder betrouwbaar werd. Het schilderij stond op zijn ezel bij zijn dood. Vaak sprak hij erover met bitterheid, als zou het uitdrukking geven an den aard van zijn leven. Met zijn bijna verloren teekening [geen lijn] en zijn gedempte kleur leek het mij soms het treurigst mogelijk embleem van al het ongelukkige van zijn lot.

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