Courtyard of a Dutch House by Pieter De Hooch

OF A CERTAIN class of paintings Ruskin had this to say, "They are good furniture pictures, unworthy of praise, and undeserving of blame." One should not conclude from this remark that Ruskin was a tolerant critic; he certainly was not. What he meant was this. Some paintings, being neither pretentious nor bold, acknowledge their own limitations. They obviously are not inspiring; they tell us nothing about history or mythology; they have no connection with the painter's religion or beliefs. They are only what they seem to be: the products of good craftsmanship, nicely colored, well fitted to be placed on simple walls, to be decorative, and not too prominent.

And so it is with this picture. It is not necessary to be technical about it. Its subject has no mystery; its design has no intricacy. When one of De Hooch's townsmen bought a picture like this, he probably derived as much pleasure looking at it as we do when, going leisurely through an album, we run across a photograph of ourselves and a friend standing in the garden outside our home. It is a faithful scene of familiar people doing familiar things. For legend has it that the woman and child were the painter's wife and daughter.

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