Art/ Collection/ Art Object

The Forest Stream

Jacob van Ruisdael (Dutch, Haarlem 1628/29–1682 Amsterdam)
ca. 1660
Oil on canvas
39 1/4 x 50 7/8 in. (99.7 x 129.2 cm)
Credit Line:
Marquand Collection, Gift of Henry G. Marquand, 1889
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 638
In the early fifties Van Ruisdael traveled in the wooded hill country of Germany near the Dutch border. His interest in this romantic landscape was reinforced after about 1656, when he settled in Amsterdam and became familiar with the views of Scandinavian landscapes by Allart van Everdingen. The present picture was probably painted in about 1660.

Ruisdael's wooded landscapes of the 1650s and 1660s are remarkable for their rich patterns of textures and colors, seen here in the deep browns and greens that predominate in this canvas of about 1660. The blues of the water and the lighter greens and reddish browns of the rocks in the center effect a gradual transition from the shadowy foreground to the sunlit cliffs in the right background and the rosy clouds in the brightest area of a mostly blue sky. On the grassy hill in the background, sheep are herded by three figures—clearly a family—a man, a woman on a donkey or pony, and a boy.

The painting demonstrates the artist's mastery of composition and his sensitivity to mood. The view is framed by groups of trees that have weathered many seasons, much as the rugged hills, the massive boulders, and the descending stream suggest a geological history more varied than the one traceable in the area of Amsterdam. Ruisdael's customary placement of ordinary figures in such a setting shifts the emphasis from the dramatic to the picturesque, for while his landscapes vary considerably within this range, they were always made accessible to the inhabitants of the domestic world for whom they were intended. The 1660s, in Dutch painting and especially in the art world of Amsterdam, could be described, for the most part, as a period of calm seas, country houses, and Mediterranean vistas. One has the impression that the Dutch burgher would let his imagination run to distant places so long as he was sure of returning home.

This type of landscape, with rocky hills, expansive trees, and a flowing stream, is often said to have been inspired by the Scandinavian views of Allart van Everdingen (1621–1675), who wandered through Norway and Sweden in 1644, settled in Haarlem in 1645, and in 1652 moved to Amsterdam. That Ruisdael was strongly influenced by the Alkmaar artist during the second half of the 1650s and later is clear from his usually vertical compositions that feature cascading water and distant thrusts of rock (The Met's Mountain Torrent, 25.110.18, is a late and comparatively tame example, once thought to be by Everdingen himself). Here, however, only the rocks, with their broad strokes of siena, have much to do with Everdingen; the composition as a whole is consistent with Ruisdael's landscapes of the early to mid-1650s, which follow upon his trip to Westphalia. The way the trees fill the composition is also reminiscent of forest views painted by earlier artists, mostly Flemings active in the area of Amsterdam, such as Gillis van Coninxloo (1544–1606/7), David Vinckboons, Alexander Keirincx (1600–1652), and especially Roelant Savery (1576–1639), whose twisted trees and shady pools are often cited as antecedents of Ruisdael's woodland views, for example, the celebrated Marsh in a Forest, of about 1665 (Hermitage, Saint Petersburg). These various influences were combined by the artist and transformed by his distinctive response to nature. Paintings like The Met’s canvas are at once the outgrowth of a long development in Dutch art and landscapes never seen until they took shape in Ruisdael's fertile imagination.

[2016; adapted from Liedtke 2007]
Inscription: Signed (lower right): JvRuisd[ae]l [initials in monogram]
[Sedelmeyer, Paris, until 1886; sold to Marquand]; Henry G. Marquand, New York (1886–89)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Collection of Dutch and Flemish Paintings by Old Masters, Owned by Mr. Charles Sedelmeyer," Winter 1886–87, no. 20 (as "Forest Scene," lent by Henry G. Marquand, probably this picture).

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Exhibition of 1888–89," 1888–89, no. 7 (as "Landscape").

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Hudson-Fulton Celebration," September–November 1909, no. 114 (as "The Forest Stream").

Hempstead, N. Y. Hofstra College. "Metropolitan Museum Masterpieces," June 26–September 1, 1952, no. 24 (as "Landscape").

East Hampton, N.Y. Guild Hall. "Trees in Art," July 18–August 13, 1957, no. 66 (as "Landscape).

Tokyo National Museum. "Treasured Masterpieces of The Metropolitan Museum of Art," August 10–October 1, 1972, no. 81 (as "Landscape").

Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art. "Treasured Masterpieces of The Metropolitan Museum of Art," October 8–November 26, 1972, no. 81.

Auckland City Art Gallery. "17th Century Pastoral Holland," mid-February–mid-March, 1974, no. 98 (as "Landscape with Waterfall").

Melbourne. National Gallery of Victoria. "17th Century Pastoral Holland," mid-March–mid-April, 1974, no. 98.

Sydney. Art Gallery of New South Wales. "17th Century Pastoral Holland," mid-April–mid-May, 1974, no. 98.

Athens. National Gallery Alexandros Soutzos Museum. "From El Greco to Cézanne: Masterpieces of European Painting from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York," December 13, 1992–April 11, 1993, no. 19 (as "Landscape").

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.

Illustrated Catalogue of 300 Paintings by Old Masters of the Dutch, Flemish, Italian, French, and English Schools. Paris, 1898, p. 210, no. 189, ill. p. 211, as "Landscape," given by Marquand to the MMA in 1895 [sic].

Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, [1908?], p. 153, no. 235, ill. p. 153 (facsimile of signature) and opp. p. 154, as "Landscape"; states that it was purchased [by Marquand] from Sedelmeyer in 1886.

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. 115, no. 114, ill. opp. p. 115, as "The Forest Stream".

Joseph Breck. "L'art hollandais à l'exposition Hudson-Fulton à New York." L'art flamand & hollandais 13, no. 2 (1910), p. 60 [published in Dutch in Onze Kunst 17 (February 1910), p. 45].

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, ill., confuses it with two other works by Ruisdael in the exhibition.

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

Cornelis Hofstede de Groot. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century. Ed. Edward G. Hawke. Vol. 4, London, 1912, pp. 86–87, no. 263, as "The Forest Stream".

Jakob Rosenberg. Jacob van Ruisdael. Berlin, 1928, pp. 85, 117, no. 214, as "Niedriger Wasserfall".

Kurt Erich Simon. Jacob van Ruisdael: eine Darstellung seiner Entwicklung. Berlin, 1930, p. 63, dates it about 1660.

Calvin Tomkins. Merchants and Masterpieces: The Story of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1970, p. 74 [rev., enl. ed., 1989].

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, p. 36.

E. John Walford. Jacob van Ruisdael and the Perception of Landscape. New Haven, 1991, p. 226 n. 17, as "Hilly Woodland with Waterfall".

Seymour Slive. Jacob van Ruisdael: A Complete Catalogue of His Paintings, Drawings and Etchings. New Haven, 2001, p. 218, no. 241.

Walter Liedtke. Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, vol. 1, p. ix; vol. 2, pp. 790–92, no. 180, colorpl. 180.

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