JACOB VAN RUISDAEL c1628 -
Ruisdael: Windmill at Wijk – Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; Jewish Cemetery – Detroit Art Institute; Winter Landscape – Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; The Great Oak – Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Two Waterfalls and an open Sluice – National Gallery, London; Waterfall in rocky landscape – National Gallery, London. Cuyp: Peasants and Cattle by the River Merwede – National Gallery, London; Boats in a storm – The Louvre, Paris; Rooster and Hens – Museum of Fine Arts, Ghent; Ubbergen Castle, National Gallery, London. Steen: The Doctor’s Visit – Mauritshuis Museum, The Hague; Celebrating the Birth – Wallace Collection, London; Young Woman at Her Toilette – Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; The Dancing Couple – National Gallery of Art, Washington.
xxxxxJacob van Ruisdael is generally considered to be the greatest of Dutch landscape artists. He spent most of his life in Holland, moving permanently to Amsterdam in 1659. He produced about 700 paintings, many depicting the typical landscape of his homeland -
xxxxxFrom the earliest times, landscape painting formed part of Chinese art, depicting as it did the elements and the change of the seasons, but in the Western World it was not until the 17th century that this art form really came into its own as an independent subject, centred in the Netherlands. Here, the artist Jacob van Ruisdael is generally considered to be the greatest of Dutch landscape painters. He was born in Haarlem and was probably trained by his father, an art dealer and minor artist, and by his more talented uncle, Salomon Ruisdael. Such was the promise he showed at this early stage that he was accepted as a member of the Haarlem Guild of St. Luke while still in his teens. He travelled widely in Holland, and moved permanently to Amsterdam in 1659. He visited western Germany on a number of occasions, but he never went to Scandinavia, despite producing pictures of the area -
xxxxxHe produced about 700 paintings in a comparatively short lifetime. Although he did paint a large number of German and Scandinavian scenes, he is best remembered today for his brilliant rendering of the typical landscape of his homeland, with its low horizons, vast clouded skies, and foregrounds of dune, sea or woodland. Many of his works, particularly the early ones, show a fondness for the dramatic, and at times an air of inexplicable sadness, even of foreboding, pervades his scenes. Among such dark-
xxxxxAfter about 1656 his work took on a lighter touch, and he provided typical scenes of Dutch countryside on a broad canvas, like the Windmill at Wijk of 1671 (illustrated above) and various panoramic views overlooking Haarlem, a number of them imaginative rather than factual. To this later period belongs Le Coup de Soleil and View of Haarlem with the Bleaching Grounds, both remarkable for their depth of vision, and with the latter showing the bleaching of linen strips in the foreground -
xxxxxApart from moody, menacing skies, Ruisdael was fascinated by trees, and many a dead, gnarled or windswept version looms large in his detailed studies of the countryside. In this respect The Great Oak, painted in 1652, is worthy of note (illustrated below). Here, as in many of his paintings, the small figures which animate the scene (known as staffage) were painted by artists specialising in this type of work. Watermills and waterfalls also caught his eye, doubtless because of the pent-
xxxxxA contemporary landscape painter who, early on, was influenced by Ruisdael, was the Dutchman Aelbert Cuyp (1620-
xxxxxA contemporary landscape painter whose early work, by its close study of nature, shows the influence of Ruisdael, was the Dutchman Aelbert Cuyp (1620-
xxxxxHe was born in Dordrecht and, like Ruisdael, owes much of his training to relatives -
xxxxxCuyp never travelled abroad, but the richness of his more mature work brought him recognition far beyond his native Holland. He was particularly popular in England, where most of his works are to be found. Among his masterpieces are View of Dordrecht, Riders with the Boy and Herdsman, and Ubbergen Castle (illustrated below), all in the National Gallery, London, and the Piper with Cows, now in the Louvre. Also illustrated below are Boats in a Storm and Rooster and Hens.
xxxxxBut not all his work was of this nature. He painted tavern scenes of the utmost propriety -
xxxxxAn able and prolific artist, -
xxxxxAnother Dutch artist of note at this time was Jan Steen (1626-
xxxxxHis father was a brewer and he himself, on returning to Leiden in 1670, opened a tavern there. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that many of his paintings depict bawdy, drunken scenes, be it in a tavern or a brothel. These and his other, more conventional tableaux of everyday life are observed with remarkable skill and sensitivity. In them he vividly portrays facial expressions and mannerisms of the assembled company, together with the disorder in which most ordinary families tended to live. Indeed, the expression "a Steen household" has come to mean one that is chaotic and slovenly! In these works, he gently chides and moralises by the use of a variety of symbols or clues, the meaning of which were well-
xxxxxAnother prominent Dutch artist at this time was Jan Steen (1626-
xxxxxHis friend and most brilliant pupil was Meindert Hobbema (W3 1689), but he also had an influence on a number of 19th century artists, including Constable and the Norwich School in England, the Barbizon School in France, and a leading Norwegian artist, Johann Christian Clausen.
xxxxxIncidentally, his Le Coup de Soleil, showing a burst of sunlight breaking through the clouds and illuminating the river valley below, was used as a motif on porcelain made at the famous Sèvres factory in about 1836.