Dutch Baroque Era Painter, ca.1628-1682
Ruysdael's favorite subjects are simple woodland scenes, similar to those of Everdingen and Hobbema. He is especially noted as a painter of trees, and his rendering of foliage, particularly of oak leaf age, is characterized by the greatest spirit and precision. His views of distant cities, such as that of Haarlem in the possession of the marquess of Bute, and that of Katwijk in the Glasgow Corporation Galleries, clearly indicate the influence of Rembrandt.
He frequently painted coast-scenes and sea-pieces, but it is in his rendering of lonely forest glades that we find him at his best. The subjects of certain of his mountain scenes seem to be taken from Norway, and have led to the supposition that he had traveled in that country. We have, however, no record of such a journey, and the works in question are probably merely adaptations from the landscapes of Van Everdingen, whose manner he copied at one period. Only a single architectural subject from his brush is known--an admirable interior of the New Church, Amsterdam. The prevailing hue of his landscapes is a full rich green, which, however, has darkened with time, while a clear grey tone is characteristic of his seapieces. The art of Ruysdael, while it shows little of the scientific knowledge of later landscapists, is sensitive and poetic in sentiment, and direct and skillful in technique. Figures are sparingly introduced into his compositions, and such as occur are believed to be from the pencils of Adriaen van de Velde, Philip Wouwerman, and Jan Lingelbach.
Unlike the other great Dutch landscape painters, Ruysdael did not aim at a pictorial record of particular scenes, but he carefully thought out and arranged his compositions, introducing into them an infinite variety of subtle contrasts in the formation of the clouds, the plants and tree forms, and the play of light. He particularly excelled in the painting of cloudscapes which are spanned dome-like over the landscape, and determine the light and shade of the objects.
Goethe lauded him as a poet among painters, and his work shows some of the sensibilities the Romantics would later celebrate.