Overview

Jacob van Ruisdael represents the pinnacle of seventeenth-century Dutch landscape painting. This great artist, the son of a painter and the nephew of Salomon van Ruysdael (see NGA 2007.116.1), began his career in Haarlem but moved to Amsterdam in about 1656. His long and productive career yielded a wide variety of landscape scenes that reflect Ruisdael’s vision of the grandeur and powerful forces of nature.

His most characteristic paintings include massive trees that tower above a rocky countryside, in which human figures seem dwarfed by the elements of nature. The scale and solemn dignity of Forest Scene make it one of Ruisdael’s masterpieces. The man and woman walking along a path near some grazing sheep in the middle distance are insignificant in comparison to the broad waterfall, the massive rocks, and the huge fallen birch tree in the foreground. The somber mood is reinforced by ominous clouds and by the dark green of the grass and foliage. Trees with twisted roots survive precariously on rocky outcroppings. The broken trees in the foreground are important not only as compositional devices but also as symbolic reminders of the transience of life and the inevitability of death.

Inscription

lower right: J v Ruisdael (JvR in ligature)

Marks and Labels

null

Provenance

Probably owned by Francis Nathaniel, 2nd marquess Conyngham [1797-1876], Mount Charles, County Donegal, and Minster Abbey, Kent.[1] Sir Hugh Hume-Campbell, 7th bart. [1812-1894], Marchmont House, Borders, Scotland, by 1857;[2] (his estate sale, Christie, Manson, & Woods, London, 16 June 1894, no. 48); (P. & D. Colnaghi & Co., London); sold 1894 to Peter A.B. Widener, Lynnewood Hall, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania; inheritance from Estate of Peter A.B. Widener by gift through power of appointment of Joseph E. Widener, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania; gift 1942 to NGA.

Exhibition History

1866
British Institution for Promoting the Fine Arts in the United Kingdom, London, 1866, no. 59 (possibly also 1855, no. 54, and 1857, no. 79).
1877
Exhibition of Works by the Old Masters and by Deceased Masters of the British School. Winter Exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1877, no. 199.

Bibliography

1854
Waagen, Gustav Friedrich. Treasures of Art in Great Britain: Being an Account of the Chief Collections of Paintings, Drawings, Sculptures, Illuminated Mss.. 3 vols. Translated by Elizabeth Rigby Eastlake. London, 1854: supplement 441.
1855
British Institution for Promoting the Fine Arts in the United Kingdom. Catalogue of pictures by Italian, Spanish, Flemish, Dutch, French and English masters with which the proprietors have favoured the Institution. Exh. cat. British Institution. London, 1855: no. 54.
1857
Waagen, Gustav Friedrich. Galleries and Cabinets of Art in Great Britain: Being an Account of more than Forty Collections of Paintings, Drawings, Sculptures, Mss., &c.&c., visited in 1854 and 1856, ..., forming a supplemental volume to the "Treasures of Art in Great Britain". London, 1857: 441.
1861
British Institution for Promoting the Fine Arts in the United Kingdom. Catalogue of pictures by Italian, Spanish, Flemish, Dutch, Franch, and English masters with which the proprietors have favoured the institution. June 1861. (Exh.). London, 1861: no. 9, 54.
1866
British Institution for Promoting the Fine Arts in the United Kingdom. Catalogue of pictures by Italian, Spanish, Flemish, Dutch, Franch, and English masters. Exh. cat. British Institution. London, 1866: no. 59.
1877
Exhibition of the Works of Old Masters.... Exh. cat. Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1877: no. 199.
1877
Royal Academy of Arts. Exhibition of Works by the Old Masters and by Deceased Masters of the British School. Winter Exhibition. Exh. cat. Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1877: no. 199.
1885
Catalogue of Paintings Forming the Collection of P. A. B. Widener, Ashbourne, near Philadelphia. 2 vols. Paris, 1885-1900: no. 274.
1907
Hofstede de Groot, Cornelis. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century. 8 vols. Translated by Edward G. Hawke. London, 1907-1927: 4(1912):92, no. 285 (possibly also 119, no. 367, 134, no. 418, 203, no. 643c).
1907
Hofstede de Groot, Cornelis. Beschreibendes und kritisches Verzeichnis der Werke der hervorragendsten holländischen Maler des XVII. Jahrhunderts. 10 vols. Esslingen and Paris, 1907-1928: 4(1911): 87, no. 285 (possibly also 111, no. 367, 125, no. 418, 192, no. 643c).
1913
Hofstede de Groot, Cornelis, and Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Pictures in the collection of P. A. B. Widener at Lynnewood Hall, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania: Early German, Dutch & Flemish Schools. Philadelphia, 1913: unpaginated, repro.
1923
Paintings in the Collection of Joseph Widener at Lynnewood Hall. Intro. by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, 1923: unpaginated, repro.
1928
Rosenberg, Jakob. Jacob van Ruisdael. Berlin, 1928: 87, no. 241.
1930
Simon, Kurt Erich. Jacob van Ruisdael: eine Darstellung seiner Entwicklung. Berlin, 1930: 62, pl. 8.
1931
Paintings in the Collection of Joseph Widener at Lynnewood Hall. Edited by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, 1931: 94, repro.
1935
Tietze, Hans. Meisterwerke europäischer Malerei in Amerika. Vienna, 1935: 338, no. 192.
1939
Tietze, Hans. Masterpieces of European Painting in America. New York, 1939: no. 192.
1942
National Gallery of Art. Works of art from the Widener collection. Washington, 1942: 6.
1948
National Gallery of Art. Paintings and Sculpture from the Widener Collection. Washington, 1948: 58, repro.
1952
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds., Great Paintings from the National Gallery of Art. New York, 1952: 108, color repro.
1957
Shapley, Fern Rusk. Comparisons in Art: A Companion to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. New York, 1957: pl. 143.
1959
National Gallery of Art. Paintings and Sculpture from the Widener Collection. Reprint. Washington, DC, 1959: 58, repro.
1960
Baird, Thomas P. Dutch Painting in the National Gallery of Art. Ten Schools of Painting in the National Gallery of Art 7. Washington, 1960: 18, color repro.
1960
National Gallery of Art. The National Gallery of Art and its collections. Washington, 1960s: 25.
1963
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.. New York, 1963: 194-195, no. 676, repro.
1965
National Gallery of Art. Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. Washington, 1965: 119.
1966
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds. A Pageant of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. 2 vols. New York, 1966: 1: 252, color repro.
1968
National Gallery of Art. European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. Washington, 1968: 106, repro.
1975
National Gallery of Art. European paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. Washington, 1975: 316, repro.
1975
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1975: 292-293, no. 391, color repro.
1979
Watson, Ross. The National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1979: 77, pl. 64.
1981
Schmidt, Winfried. Studien zur Landschaftskunst Jacob van Ruisdaels: Frühwerke und Wanderjahre. Hildesheim, 1981: 90.
1984
Britsch, Ralph A., and Todd A. Britsch. The arts in Western culture. Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1984: 258, fig. 11-16.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 292, no. 384, color repro.
1984
Wheelock, Jr., Arthur K. Dutch Painting in the National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 1984: 36-37, color repro.
1985
National Gallery of Art. European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. Washington, 1985: 363, repro.
1986
Sutton, Peter C. A Guide to Dutch Art in America. Washington and Grand Rapids, 1986: 305.
1991
Walford, E. John. Jacob van Ruisdael and the Perception of Landscape. New Haven, 1991: 102-104, 117, 144, repro.
1992
National Gallery of Art. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1992: 136, color repro.
1995
Katz, Elizabeth L., E. Louis Lankford, and Janice D. Plank. Themes and foundations of art. Minneapolis, 1995: 452, fig. 8-101.
1995
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, 1995: 339-343, color repro. 341.
2001
Slive, Seymour. Jacob van Ruisdael: A Complete Catalogue of his Paintings, Drawings and Etchings. New Haven, 2001: 243-244, no. 295.
2002
Hunt, John Dixon. The picturesque garden in Europe. New York, 2002: 17, fig. 13.
2004
Allen, Eva J. A Vision of Nature: The Landscapes of Philip Koch: Retrospective, 1971-2004. Exh. cat. University of Maryland University College, Adelphi. College Park, Maryland, 2004: 14-15, fig. 6.
2004
Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 204-205, no. 162, color repro.
2005
Slive, Seymour. Jacob van Ruisdael: Master of Landscape. Exh. cat. Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Royal Academy of Arts, London. London, 2005: no. 32, 108, 109 repro.
2006
Schwartz, Sanford. "White Secrets." The New York Review (9 February 2006): 8.
2012
Tummers, Anna. The Eye of the Connoisseur: Authenticating Paintings by Rembrandt and His Contemporaries. Amsterdam, 2012: 101, color fig. 46.

Conservation Notes

The support is a medium-weight fabric with a somewhat uneven weave. The painting was lined to two pieces of fabric in 1942, at which time an old lining was removed, as was a discolored varnish.[1] The tacking margins have been flattened, inpainted, and incorporated into the picture plane, extending the painting’s dimensions by approximately one inch on all four sides. The support was prepared with a thin, white ground. The paint was applied thinly in areas such as the water and some of the clouds, but thicker with some impasto in other areas such as the foliage and the highlights. The X-radiographs reveal that the artist originally painted the top of the waterfall to extend all the way to the large rock on the left side of the painting.

Minute paint losses are scattered throughout the painting, particularly in the tall tree on the left and the large tree on the right. The paint has blistered in the top left and top center of the painting.[2] Although the painting is in relatively good condition, there is a fair amount of abrasion in the sky. The painting was treated again in 2000 to remove the then discolored varnish and inpainting from the 1942 treatment. Dark stains in the clouds were inpainted at this time.

 

[1] This treatment is documented in an unsigned report from M. Knoedler & Company, Inc. (see report dated April 9, 1942, in NGA Conservation files). Presumably this treatment was performed by Louis de Wild, a New York restorer who worked on paintings for Knoedler & Company (see notes dated February 2, 1968, in NGA Conservation department files).

[2] This was probably caused by a previous lining procedure during which too much heat was used. The blisters were already present at the time of the 1942 treatment, and they are documented in the April 9, 1942, report (see Technical Summary note 1).

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