National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Forest Scene Jacob van Ruisdael (artist)
Dutch, c. 1628/1629 - 1682
Forest Scene, c. 1655
oil on canvas
overall: 105.5 x 123.4 cm (41 9/16 x 48 9/16 in.)
Widener Collection
1942.9.80
On View
From the Tour: Dutch Landscapes and Seascapes of the 1600s
Object 6 of 8

Ruisdael, who learned his craft from his father and uncle in Haarlem, became the supreme master of Holland’s mid-seventeenth-century classical period of landscape. Here, the precise textures of foliage, bark, grass, rocks, and cascading water are illuminated by the cold, gray light of an approaching storm. Everything is in turmoil: thunderclouds threaten, and shepherds scurry for safety. For all its realism, though, the awesome scene does not portray the Dutch countryside, which has no waterfalls.

Ruisdael developed his majestic subjects by studying the work of other artists, sketching during a trip up the Rhine river to Germany, and consulting books of religious and social symbolism. The rotting trunk and stump of a white birch tree, for instance, relate the concept of death and the passage of time.

Two smaller canvases by Ruisdael are also part of the Gallery’s collection. Landscape contrasts a vibrant tree with a dead trunk. Country House in a Park suggests the vanity of mortal pursuits. In a forgotten, unattended garden, a storm forces lawn bowlers to abandon their frivolous game. Ruisdael’s famous pupil, Meindert Hobbema, adapted many of his mentor’s themes but not these deeper levels of meaning.

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