Baroque artist, often
considered the greatest Dutch landscape painter. He was probably the pupil
of his father, the frame maker and artist Isaak de Goyer, who later called
himself Ruysdael. None of Isaak's paintings have been identified with
certainty, and it is impossible to determine the nature and extent of
his influence on Ruisdael. Jacob was the nephew of the noted painter Salomon
van Ruysdael (this distinction in spelling occurs consistently in their
of Cornelis Vroom, another Haarlem landscapist, is often noticeable in
his early works of the 1640s. The earliest dated pictures are of 1646.
Two years later Ruisdael became a member of the Guild of St Luke in Haarlem.
From 1650 to 1653 he traveled extensively in the Netherlands and the neighbouring
parts of western Germany. In about 1655 he settled in Amsterdam, of which
he became a free citizen in 1659. Meindert Hobbema was his most famous
pupil and follower.
work, such as the Landscape with a House in the Grove (c. 1646; The Hermitage,
St. Petersburg), reflects his obsession with trees. Earlier Dutch artists
use trees merely as decorative compositional devices, but Ruisdael makes
them the subject of his paintings and imbues them with forceful personalities.
His draftsmanship is meticulously precise and is enriched by thick impasto,
which adds depth and character to the foliage and trunks of his trees.
After 1650 the monumentality of his landscapes increases. In his view
of Bentheim Castle (1653; National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin), the forms
become more massive, the colours more vibrant, and the composition more
concentrated. The latter quality is even more evident in his famous Jewish
Cemetery (1655-60; Gemäldegalerie, Dresden), which is one of his most
masterly compositions. All motifs of secondary importance serve as accessories
to the main motif, three ruined tombs. The painting symbolizes the transience
of temporal things.
After 1656 Ruisdael's
compositions became more spacious and his palette became brighter. His
paintings of waterfalls and his Marsh in the Woods (c. 1665; Hermitage,
St. Petersburg), recall his earlier interest in forest scenes. But more
often his late works, such as the Windmill at Wijk bij Duurstede (c. 1665;
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam), Wheatfields (c. 1670; Metropolitan Museum of
Art, New York), and his numerous views of Haarlem display panoramas of
the flat Dutch countryside. The horizon is invariably low and distant
and dominated by a vast, clouded sky. Sometimes the small figures in his
pictures were added by other artists, such as
Adriaen van de Velde,
Philips Wouwerman, and
Claes Berchem. He also produced several
delicately finished etchings, one of the most famous of which is The Cornfield