Back to browse highlights

Wheat Fields

Jacob van Ruisdael (Dutch, Haarlem 1628/29–1682 Amsterdam)

ca. 1670
Oil on canvas
39 3/8 x 51 1/4 in. (100 x 130.2 cm)
Credit Line:
Bequest of Benjamin Altman, 1913
Accession Number:
  • Gallery Label

    This large canvas of about 1670 is Ruisdael's most ambitious view of grain fields, a subject he treated frequently. The monumental design, with its centralized recession into space, might have been intended for a particular location, perhaps above a mantelpiece. During the seventeenth century, paintings of this size were usually hung high.

  • Catalogue Entry

    This work is generally considered to be the "most imposing treatment of the subject" among Van Ruisdael's twenty-seven known views of various grainfields. Rosenberg and Slive, the two leading authorities on the artist's work, concur in dating the picture to about 1670. The sweeping space flows directly away from the viewer, who is drawn into the landscape by the rapid recession of a sandy road. Despite the composition's obvious structure, it conveys the natural sensation of walking in the Dutch contryside, with its lasting impression of terrain extending in all directions under an endless sky.

    As might be expected, the painting is comparable in design and motifs to a few other views of grainfields by the artist. However, the composition stands apart to an extent that leads to speculation about the work's original placement. In its size, proportions, and centralized design, it would have served well as a schoorsteenstuk (chimneypiece) above a mantel in a Dutch house.

    The first recorded owner of this canvas is Pierre-Louis-Jean-Baptiste Colbert, marquis de Laplace, who probably acquired it after having served at the French embassies in Washington (1864) and St. Petersburg (1866). In the 1880s and 1890s, while he had various roles in the French government, Colbert also worked for the interests of agriculture and distilleries. Benjamin Altman acquired the work in 1909. The three Dutch landscapists most admired by Gilded Age collectors in America were Van Ruisdael, Hobbema, and Aelbert Cuyp. Altman owned works by all three (MMA 14.40.614 and 14.40.616); his homage to them could hardly have been improved.

    [2011; adapted from Liedtke 2007]

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Signed (lower right): JvRuisdael [initials in monogram]

  • Provenance

    Pierre-Louis-Jean-Baptiste Colbert, marquis de Laplace, Paris; [Sedelmeyer, Paris, in 1905]; Maurice Kann, Paris (until d. 1906; his estate, 1906–9; sold to Duveen); [Duveen, London, 1909; sold for $194,800 to Altman]; Benjamin Altman, New York (1909–d. 1913)

  • Exhibition History

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Hudson-Fulton Celebration," September–November 1909, no. 112A (as "Cornfields ('Un Coup de soleil')", lent by Mr. B. Altman, New York).

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Landscape Paintings," May 14–September 30, 1934, no. 23.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Art Treasures of the Metropolitan," November 7, 1952–September 7, 1953, no. 115.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Fifty Centuries," November 15, 1970–February 15, 1971, no. 277.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 18, 2007–January 6, 2008, no catalogue.

  • References

    Illustrated Catalogue of the Ninth Series of 100 Paintings by Old Masters. Paris, 1905, p. 40, no. 30, ill. opp. p. 40, as from the collection of the comte de Colbert-Laplace.

    "Kann Pictures Bought by Duveen Bros." American Art News 7 (September 20, 1909), p. 3, discusses Duveen's purchase of part of the late Maurice Kann's collection, including this picture.

    Auguste Marguillier. "Collection de feu M. Maurice Kann." Les arts 8 (April 1909), ill. p. 32, as "Le Coup de soleil".

    Wilhelm R. Valentiner. The Hudson-Fulton Celebration: Catalogue of an Exhibition Held in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1909, vol. 1, p. 150, no. 112A, ill. opp. p. 150, as lent by Mr. B. Altman, New York.

    Kenyon Cox. "Dutch Pictures in The Hudson-Fulton Exhibition—III." Burlington Magazine 16 (February 1910), p. 306.

    E[mil]. Waldmann. "Die Ausstellung Holländischer Gemälde des 17. Jahrhunderts in New York." Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst, n.s., 21, no. 4 (1910), p. 80.

    William Bode. "More Spurious Pictures Abroad Than in America." New York Times (December 31, 1911), p. SM4.

    Cornelis Hofstede de Groot. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century. 4, London, 1912, pp. 43–44, no. 119.

    Wilhelm R. Valentiner. "Amerikanische Privatsammlungen." Kunst und Künstler 18 (1920), ill. p. 363.

    François Monod. "La Galerie Altman au Metropolitan Museum de New-York (2e article)." Gazette des beaux-arts, 5th ser., 8 (November 1923), pp. 311–12, ill., as a view near Overveen.

    Jakob Rosenberg. "Hobbema." Jahrbuch der Preussischen Kunstsammlungen 48 (1927), pp. 150–51, fig. 21.

    Handbook of the Benjamin Altman Collection. 2nd ed. New York, 1928, pp. 67–69, no. 32.

    Jakob Rosenberg. Jacob van Ruisdael. Berlin, 1928, pp. 58–59, 77, 116, no. 86a, fig. 122.

    Kurt Erich Simon. Jacob van Ruisdael: eine Darstellung seiner Entwicklung. Berlin, 1930, p. 54, dates it about 1670.

    H[orst]. Gerson. "The Development of Ruisdael." Burlington Magazine 65 (August 1934), p. 79.

    Art Treasures of the Metropolitan: A Selection from the European and Asiatic Collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1952, p. 229, no. 115, colorpl. 115.

    "Notes on the Cover." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 11 (March 1953), inside cover, ill. on cover (color detail).

    Theodore Rousseau Jr. "A Guide to the Picture Galleries." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 12, part 2 (January 1954), p. 3, ill. p. 34.

    Jakob Rosenberg and Seymour Slive in Dutch Art and Architecture: 1600 to 1800. Baltimore, 1966, p. 158, pl. 136, date it about 1670.

    Michael Levey. "The Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries." 20,000 Years of World Painting. New York, 1967, p. 254, ill. (color).

    Introduction by Kenneth Clark in Masterpieces of Fifty Centuries. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1970, p. 258, no. 277, ill. pp. 54 (color) and 258.

    Calvin Tomkins. Merchants and Masterpieces: The Story of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1970, pp. 172–73 [rev., enl. ed., 1989].

    Jakob Rosenberg and Seymour Slive in Dutch Art and Architecture: 1600 to 1800. rev. ed. Harmondsworth, England, 1972, p. 275, fig. 220.

    Julián Gállego and Frédéric Mégret. "Le Siècle d'or en Hollande." La grande histoire de la peinture. 10, [Geneva], 1973, p. 34.

    Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, pp. 345, 349, figs. 621, 630 (overall and color detail).

    Seymour Slive. Jacob van Ruisdael. Exh. cat., Mauritshuis, The Hague. New York, 1981, p. 94, under no. 30, fig. 42.

    John Walsh Jr. and Cynthia P. Schneider. A Mirror of Nature: Dutch Paintings from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Edward William Carter. Exh. cat., Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Los Angeles, 1981, pp. 84, 86, under no. 21, ill. p. 87, date it about 1665–70.

    Peter C. Sutton. A Guide to Dutch Art in America. Grand Rapids, Mich., 1986, p. 191.

    Alan Chong in Masters of 17th-Century Dutch Landscape Painting. Exh. cat., Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Boston, 1987, p. 446, under no. 83, identifies it by the wrong accession number.

    Ernest Samuels. Bernard Berenson: The Making of a Legend. Cambridge, Mass., 1987, p. 91, states that Altman bought the picture from Duveen in the fall of 1909, soon after the dealer had acquired it as part of the Maurice Kann collection.

    Walter Liedtke. "Dutch Paintings in America: The Collectors and Their Ideals." Great Dutch Paintings from America. Exh. cat., Mauritshuis, The Hague. Zwolle, The Netherlands, 1990, pp. 48, 58 n. 154.

    Neil MacLaren revised and expanded by Christopher Brown in The Dutch School, 1600–1900. 2nd ed. London, 1991, vol. 1, p. 178.

    E. John Walford. Jacob van Ruisdael and the Perception of Landscape. New Haven, 1991, pp. 146–47, 149, 177, fig. 153 (color).

    Peter C. Sutton. Dutch & Flemish Seventeenth-Century Paintings: The Harold Samuel Collection. Cambridge, 1992, pp. 170, 172 n. 5.

    Seymour Slive. Dutch Painting 1600–1800. New Haven, 1995, p. 205, fig. 277.

    Lillian B. Miller in The Dictionary of Art. 1, New York, 1996, p. 731.

    Walter Liedtke. Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, vol. 1, pp. 149, 490; vol. 2, pp. 795–98, no. 182, colorpl. 182.

    Esmée Quodbach. "The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 65 (Summer 2007), pp. 28–29, 33, 35, fig. 36 (color) and ill. on back cover (color).

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History