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Dunes
Dunes, Early 1650s
Jacob Isaacksz. van Ruisdael, Dutch (active Haarlem and Amsterdam)
Oil on panel
13 3/16 x 19 3/8 inches (33.5 x 49.2 cm)
John G. Johnson Collection, 1917
Cat. 563
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About This Painting

Rather than presenting us with a densely wooded landscape, or the ruins of an abbey, here Jacob van Ruisdael portrays the sand dunes that bordered his native Haarlem. He probably spent many hours roaming the dunes around Haarlem as a young man musing over how to capture such a landscape in paint. This range of dunes served as a natural levy protecting Haarlem from the North Sea. In this work, a lone man and his dog walk the rutted path along the hills of the dunes. Ruisdael uses powerful contrasts of light and dark, texture, and space to create the scene. Notice the difference between the fragile and stippled brush strokes of the grass and shrubs, in contrast to the broad brushstrokes he uses for the sky. The immediacy of this landscape makes it hard to believe that Ruisdael probably never painted outdoors. As was standard practice among seventeenth-century artists, he made drawings outdoors, which were used as studies for landscapes painted in the studio.
 

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