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Jacob van Ruisdael is often regarded as the single most important landscape painter of the Dutch Golden Age in the seventeenth century, the place and moment where landscape painting first came into its own. Ruisdael exerted an influence on such landscape artists as John Constable as well as the French Impressionists. This exhibition includes approximately forty-five paintings, thirty drawings, and all thirteen of Ruisdael’s rare etchings.
He trained with his uncle Salomon and produced his first paintings in 1646 when he was sixteen or seventeen. The densely wooded scenes of his early period give way to the more spacious and diverse compositions of his later years. Ruisdael painted the dunes, seashore, marshes, and forests around Haarlem, but also the more dramatic topography of Germany and even Scandinavia, a place he never actually visited but knew from other artists’ work. The tension between fiction and truth became more pronounced in his paintings than in any previous landscape art, creating a kind of landscape rich in accurate observation of the natural world and imbued with evocative symbolism. Considered the inventor of the Romantic landscape, his Jewish Cemetery, the most stirring and monumental of his imaginary scenes, transformed a humble graveyard near Amsterdam into astonishing allegories of the transience of life.
Collectors in seventeenth-century Holland preferred landscapes to any other genre of painting. Ruisdael’s landscapes were especially sought after, and his fame in his own time is comparable to that of the French Impressionist Monet today. This exhibition allows modern viewers to rediscover the breathtaking beauty of one of the greatest and most beloved practitioners of landscape art.