Jacob Van Ruisdael

The Irritatingly Versatile Jacob Van Ruisdael by Geoff Harrison

I've always been an admirer of the gloomily beautiful works of Jacob Van Ruisdael (Dutch 17th century).  The sun rarely shines in Van Ruisdael's scenes, yet there is light, airiness and stillness.

The Watermill (ca. 1660)                        Oil On Canvas                                        NGV Melbourne

The Watermill (ca. 1660)                        Oil On Canvas                                        NGV Melbourne

He was also a highly talented draftsman, as the drawing below testifies.

The Watermill, Sun

The Watermill, Sun

He also tried his hand at etching very early in his career (around 1646) and some of his prints contain almost dazzling intricacy.  

The Little Bridge(ca 1652)

The Little Bridge(ca 1652)

Would Van Ruisdael have been such a fine landscape painter without possessing excellent drawing skills?  I doubt it.

Selling Holland by Geoff Harrison

My favourite Dutch 17th Century artist Jacob Van Ruisdael is often credited with presenting the Dutch landscape as it really was - overcast and damp.  "He carefully studied the fascinating characteristic movements in the sky: he was entranced by the infinite gradations of grey and how you'll often see a patch of fluffy brightness drifting behind a darker billowing mass of rain cloud.  He didn't deny there was mud or that the river and canal banks are sometimes messy.  Instead he noticed their special kind of beauty and made a case for it." THE BOOK OF LIFE

The_Windmill_at_Wijk_bij_Duurstede_1670_Ruisdael-1.jpg

But the Dutch tourist board would prefer a different image of the country to be presented. (below)  There may be the occasional place and a few times of year when the Netherlands may actually look like this, but the countryside that Van Ruisdael depicted is something the tourist board would prefer to stay quiet about.  In it's determination to lure visitors to it's country, the Dutch tourist board engages in exaggeration, or at worst - lies.

Jacob Van Ruisdael by Geoff Harrison

"Bleaching Ground In A Hollow Near A Cottage"  Oil on Canvas   1645-1650

I've always admired the dark, brooding work of this artist.  He is able to invoke an intimate relationship with the landscape so that the viewer becomes a participant in the scene rather than a detached observer.  Direct observation of Van Ruisdael's scenes can lead to inward meditation and he achieves this by capturing a particular light or moment.