Painting "The Alchemist" by Adriaan van Ostade
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There is certainly nothing eclectic about either the people or the settings of Ostade's pictures. It is Dutch nature with all its beauties and all its deformities, yet put together with an emphasis of the picturesque that tells the artistic eye and the clever hand of a thoroughly trained painter.
Many subjects appealed to him, single figures, sacred themes, streets, markets ; but he preferred the cottage doorstep with small squat figures, or the dingy ale-house with peasants or topers. The quaint nooks, doors, windows, eaves, stairways, the odd groups, chairs, benches, and still-life, all lent themselves charmingly to composition. He distributed them about on his canvas with a regard for equipoise, he made them brilliant as notes of repeated color, he brought them together and harmonized them under light and shadow.
They were the materials of picture-making which he used to the very best advantage. He never distorted or falsified their integrity. On the contrary, he
arranged them so that their truth of character would be the more apparent. And in this arrangement or composition he was one of the masters of his kind. One of his dumpy figures, that seems put in a picture at haphazard, if taken out, would soon show a something wanting; and a change of color in a curtain, a table, or a coat, would mean discord at once.
In drawing he reduced everything to the simplest forms, as may be seen in many of his paintings.