CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Jacob van Ruisdael

Exhibition: 18 January - 1 April 2002


Pieter Biesboer and Martina Sitt


The Frans Hals museum, Haarlem

From the museum website

The first paintings by the Haarlem artist Jacob van Ruisdael (1628/29-1682) immediately marked him as a major innovator in the field of 17th-century Netherlandish landscape painting. His choice of motifs and his treatment of space and lighting sharply distinguish him from prevailing conventions of the period. One of Ruisdael’s most innovative early works is a painting belonging to the Hamburger Kunsthalle, Landscape with a cottage from 1646. This key picture forms the starting point of the first exhibition in Germany ever to pay tribute to Ruisdael’s impact on the development of Netherlandish landscape painting. The exhibition will mainly focus on Ruisdael’s compositions in the 1640s and 50s. Their modernity for the time is made particularly apparent when compared with works by other Haarlem landscape painters such as Isaack and Salomon van Ruysdael, Jan van Goyen, Pieter Molijn, Cornelis Vroom and Allart van Everdingen. This aspect will be supplemented by several of Ruisdael’s later works (including the famous Windmill at Wijk from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam), as well as works by other contemporary and later painters such as Meindert Hobbema, Jan van Kessel and Jacob van Mosscher. These works highlight the enormous influence exerted by Ruisdael’s ‘landscape revolution’ on Dutch painting.

In addition to the early works, the exhibition will show forty works from the broad collection of the Hamburger Kunsthalle, many of which have not been on display for considerable time. These will give an insight into the range of Netherlandish landscape painting of the 17th century. They introduce the viewer to panoramic views and village landscapes, winterscapes as well as nightscenes and seascapes painted by Ruisdael’s contemporaries.

As a special feature, the Hamburg exhibition will also include a close examination of painting techniques. X-rays and detailed explanations will reveal the conception and the painting process behind Ruisdael’s masterpieces.


This exhibition is supported by various renowned museums and private collections. It includes approximately 80 works, of which 35 are on loan from the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, the Metropolitan Museum New York, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the Louvre in Paris.


The exhibition in Hamburg was made possible through the co-operation of Philips GmbH;

Museum information 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 Dunelandscape in the Hamburger Kunsthalle and the undated Dunelandscape 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, M├╝nchen 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, the View of Haarlem from the Mauritshuis, The Hague, the 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 M├╝ller, with a contribution by Jochen Becker, Zwolle (Waanders) and Hamburg (Hamburger Kunsthalle) 2002.
ISBN 90-400-9606-6 (hardbound)
ISBN 90-400-9607-4 (paperbound).

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

Other venue

Haarlem, Frans Halsmuseum (27 April-29 July 2002).