Time for a painting, or two. The one above, Courtyard of a House in Delft, is by Pieter de Hooch, who was born on this day in 1629. His life seems to have been pretty unhappy, at least after the death of his young wife in 1667, and he ended his days in a madhouse - but his paintings are typically sweet and charming, depicting happy, or at least peaceful, domestic scenes. The Courtyard is in the National Gallery, where it's always a pleasure to come across it. The eye can wander happily over the details and enjoy the contrasts of light and dark, and it's a pleasingly calm, balanced and relaxing picture. At a glance, it might be mistaken for a Vermeer (he was a close contemporary of De Hooch and they certainly knew each other's work) - until, that is, you look at a Vermeer. The painting below, known as The Little Street, could almost be a front view of the house in the De Hooch - but it could never be by the same hand, being infinitely more subtle, delicate and skilful in execution and bolder in conception. To compare the two is to see the difference between talent and genius clearly illustrated. Or, if you like, prettiness and beauty.
Nige, who, like Mr Kenneth Horne, prefers to remain anonymous, was also a founder blogger of The Dabbler and a co-blogger on the Bryan Appleyard Thought Experiments blog. He is the sole blogger on this one, and his principal aim is to share various of life's pleasures. These tend to relate to books, art, poems, butterflies, birds, churches, music, walking, weather, drink, etc, with occasional references to the passing scene.