Description & Technical information

Literature: S. Slive, Jacob van Ruisdael. A Complete Catalogue of his Paintings, Drawings and Etchings, (2001), p.161, no.149

Provenance: A. Tischer, Basel; L. Koetser, London, Spring Exhibition, 1968, no.25, repr.; sale, anon. London, Christie’s, 28 June 1974, no. 66 (25,000 gns.); dealer M. Koetser, Zurich; sale, anon. Koln, Lempertz, 12 May 2012, no. 1294, (€195,200) John Mitchell Fine Paintings, London;  Asbjorn R. Lunde Collection, New York, 2013.

Looking through and beyond a waterfall, a herdsman can be seen fording a river with his sheep in tow. Behind him and to the right is a mature oak within a bosky landscape which gives way to an archetypical Ruisdael sky with receding clouds of varying height and thickness. Flashes of silver and pink suffuse the canopy of clouds as they become darker and more brooding towards the top. To the front and right hand of the picture composition two silver birches rise up over the riverbank. One is a sapling and the other a dying tree which has lost a branch.  A flash of sunlight is rippling across the river below as it begins to funnel into the torrent. All round the bank of the river there are clusters of young oak trees clinging on to life. The imaginary mountain in the far left background balances the groups of trees on the right and creates a sense of depth back and beyond the river.

In many ways, Jacob van Ruisdael’s paintings define Dutch seventeenth-century landscape. His pictures consistently outshine those by his numerous and gifted contemporaries and his impact on the genre of landscape art has lasted through the centuries.

Rusidael was neither the most original nor innovative of the landscapists but was by far the most skilful and versatile interpreter of his native surroundings be it dunes, panorama, beach, rivers, forests or, rarer still, winter. He sought to monumentalize the scene and yet treated each oak, birch or clod of earth with individuality.

This splendid and immaculately preserved picture was dated to around 1670 by Professor Slive and comes from a period in which Ruisdael was inspired by the Scandinavian scenery depicted by his fellow countryman from Alkmaar, Allaert van Everdingen (1621-1675). By 1650 Everdingen had begun to focus on upright pictures representing waterfalls with rocky foregrounds and mills or precariously perched cabins. Perhaps the finest example is in the Alte Pinakothek in Munich and there is no doubt that his Scandinavian motifs were a popular theme amongst the landscape painters of the time. Ruisdael was no exception and although he never travelled to Norway or Sweden he began to include some features from the Dutch-German border territory such as rolling hills and castles which he had experienced during his Wanderjahr in 1651 when he travelled to Bentheim in Westphalia.

Date:  c. 1670
Period:  17th century
Medium: Oil on canvas
Signature: Signed
Dimensions: 53.3 x 44.5 cm (21 x 17¹/₂ inches)
Categories: Paintings, Drawings & Prints