CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Jacob van Ruisdael

Exhibition: 27 April - 29 July 2002


Pieter Biesboer* and Martina Sitt*.

From the museum website (text by Pieter Biesboer)

In 1648 Jacob van Ruisdael (1628/29-1682) became a member of the Haarlem Guild of St. Luke. Two years earlier in 1646 he signed and dated several of his earliest, fascinating works. Among them the Dune landscape in the Hamburger Kunsthalle and the undated Dune landscape in the Frans Hals Museum, which are closely connected. In Ruisdael’s early work the influence of the landscapes of his father Isaak and his uncle Salomon can be traced. They most probably were his teachers. Similarly at this early stage of his career he absorbed some influence of contemporary landscape painters in Haarlem such as Jan van Goyen, Allart van Everdingen, Cornelis Vroom and Jacob van Mosscher. We intend to illustrate this with a selection of eight earlier works by these artists. However, there are already some remarkable differences to be found. Ruisdael developed a more dramatic effect in the rendering of the different textures of the trees, bushes and plants and the bold presentation of one large clump of oak trees leaning over with its gnarled and twisted trunks and branches highlighted against the dark cloudy sky. Strong lighting hits a sandy patch or a sandy road creating dramatic colour contrasts. These elements characterize his early works from 1646 till 1650.

It is our intention to focus on the revolutionary development of Ruisdael as an artist inventing new heroic-dramatic schemes in composition, colour contrast and light effects. Our aim is to follow this deveopment with a selection of early signed and dated paintings which are key works and and show these different aspects in a a series of most splendid examples, f.i. a number of Dunelandscapes dating from 1646 and 1647 from the museum collections of St. Petersburg, Leipzig, München and Paris. We will also focus on the development of Ruisdael’s early wooded landscapes ending at the turning point of his career with his trip to Blenheim.. Several examples from a private collection in Vienna, one in London, one in Brunswick, one in Rotterdam and two in St. Petersburg will illustrate this spectacular change. After his trip to Blenheim and his move to Amsterdam Ruisdael achieved an impressive control of light effects, composition and accentuation of bold, compact forms in a rich scala of vivid ocre, brown and green colours. As the apotheosis a selection of four of his most famous masterpieces will be presented: The Jewish Cemetery at Ouderkerk from Dresden, View of Haarlem from the Mauritshuis, The Hague, View of the ruins of Kostverloren from the Amsterdam Historical Museum, The Mill at Wijk bij Duurstede from the Rijksmuseum at Amsterdam, which have become true icons of Dutch seventeenth century landscape painting.

In order to demonstrate the impact of Ruisdael’s new approach to landscape painting we will finish with a number of later works by contemporary artists and followers like Pieter Molijn, Meindert Hobbema, Jan van Kessel and Jan van der Meer van Haarlem.

Jacob van Ruisdael produced more than 300 landscape paintings, of which many are authentic replica’s and variations. On purpose we did not choose to make a general survey selection from his oeuvre, like was presented twenty years ago at The Hague in the Mauritshuis. We intend to give special attention to the new developments and impulses in Ruisdael’s early landscapes which led to a revolution in landscape painting and became a source of inspiration for artists of later generations like Fragonard, Gainsborough, Constable, Jongkind, Monet and many others.


Martina Sitt and Pieter Biesboer, Jacob van Ruisdael: die Revolution der Landschaft, co-editor Karsten Müller, with a contribution by Jochen Becker, Zwolle (Waanders) and Hamburg (Hamburger Kunsthalle) 2002. ISBN 90-400-9606-6 (hardbound), 90-400-9607-4 (paperbound).

Dutch edition: Jacob van Ruisdael: de revolutie van het Hollandse landschap, Zwolle (Waanders) and Haarlem (Frans Halsmuseum) 2002. ISBN 90-400-9604-X (hardbound), 90-400-9605-8 (paperbound).

Other venue

Hamburg, Hamburger Kunsthalle (18 January-1 April 2002).