This ambitious picture is one of nine known landscape paintings that bear the earliest date found on works by Van Ruisdael, 1646. At the time the artist was about eighteen years old. Youthful exuberance and some losses of paint and glazes combine to make the topography in the foreground somewhat unclear. However, the naturalistic description of foliage and the dramatic presentation of trees forecast the future of Holland's greatest landscape painter.
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Title:Landscape with a Village in the Distance
Artist:Jacob van Ruisdael (Dutch, Haarlem 1628/29–1682 Amsterdam)
Medium:Oil on wood
Dimensions:30 x 43 in. (76.2 x 109.2 cm)
Credit Line:Bequest of Adele L. Lehman, in memory of Arthur Lehman, 1965
This ambitious picture is one of the earliest known works by Van Ruisdael, who was about eighteen years old when he painted fifteen known landscapes that are dated 1646. While this painting is consistent in execution with contemporary works by the artist, its bold composition and loose handling of such passages as the entire foreground make a rather rash impression compared with that of pictures like Landscape with a Windmill (Cleveland Museum of Art) or Landscape with a Cottage and Trees (Kunsthalle, Hamburg), both also of 1646. In his youthful works, Van Ruisdael's tendency to exaggerate dramatic effects occasionally produced awkward results. Here, for example, the silhouetted trees and rough terrain in the foreground seem somewhat contrived, in contrast to the view of a village in the left background. The source of the stream that runs along the bottom center of the composition and splashes the artist's signature is not entirely clear.
In the past, scholars explained the picture's unresolved qualities by assigning it to one of Van Ruisdael's followers. In 1912, Hofstede de Groot attributed it to Gerrit van Hees (ca. 1625–1670); Stechow, in 1938, more plausibly proposed Van Ruisdael's cousin Jacob Salomonsz van Ruysdael (1629/30–1681). When the panel was owned by Nathaniel Thayer in Boston, it was considered to be by Hobbema (1638–1709) on the basis of a false signature. Broulhiet acepted this attribution in 1938. Cleaning in 1935 removed the Hobbema inscription and revealed Van Ruisdael's own. Nonetheless, scholars continued to express doubts, although Virch confidently catalogued the work as by Van Ruisdael in 1965, and in 1971 Slive was inclined to support this view.
The painting was cleaned again in 1981. In 1988, it was placed next to Van Ruisdael's Dune Landscape of 1646 (State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg). Passage for passage, comparisons revealed the same hand in every area. Other works signed by the artist and dated 1646 are also quite consistent in execution with The Met's work, although they vary considerably in subject, condition, and scale. In addition to supporting these conclusions, Slive notes that the great oak in the painting is closely related to an oak in a drawing by Van Ruisdael (Hunter with Three Dogs Entering a Wood, Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin) which is dated 1646.
[2011; adapted from Liedtke 2007]
Inscription: Signed and dated (lower right): Jv Ru[i]sdael [initials in monogram] 1646
Nathaniel Thayer, Boston (by 1912–d. 1927; his estate, 1927–35; posthumous sale, American Art Association-Anderson Galleries, New York, April 25, 1935, no. 62, as "Landscape with Figures," by Hobbema, for $1,150 to Plaza Curiosity Shop); [Karl Loevenich and Frank Schnittjer, Plaza Curiosity Shop, New York, 1935–36; sold to Kleinberger]; [Kleinberger, New York, 1936; sold to Silberman]; [E. and A. Silberman Galleries, New York, 1936–37; sold to Lehman]; Adele L. (Mrs. Arthur) Lehman, New York (1937–d. 1965)
Cleveland Museum of Art. "Twentieth Anniversary Exhibition," June 26–October 4, 1936, no. 240 (lent by E. and A. Silberman Galleries, Inc., New York).
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. "Six Centuries of Landscape," March 7–April 13, 1952, no. 30 (lent by Mrs. Arthur Lehman).
Hamburger Kunsthalle. "Jacob van Ruisdael: Die Revolution der Landschaft," January 18–April 1, 2002, no. 8.
Haarlem. Frans Halsmuseum. "Jacob van Ruisdael: Die Revolution der Landschaft," April 27–July 29, 2002, no. 8.
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.
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, p. 6, as by Gerrit van Hees; as in the Thayer collection, Boston.
Georges Broulhiet. Meindert Hobbema (1638–1709). Paris, 1938, p. 443, no. 507, ill. p. 353, as by Hobbema; calls it inspired by a drawing by Ruisdael in the Louvre.
Wolfgang Stechow. Salomon van Ruysdael: Eine Einführung in seine Kunst. Berlin, 1938, p. 58, as by Jacob Salomonsz. van Ruysdael [a cousin of Ruisdael].
Claus Virch. The Adele and Arthur Lehman Collection. New York, 1965, pp. 50–51, ill., disagrees with Broulhiet [see Ref. 1938], finding that there is "no more than a general, generic similiarity [sic]" between the MMA painting and the Louvre drawing Broulhiet mentions as the inspiration for it.
Seymour Slive. Letter to John Walsh. February 15, 1971, judging from a photograph, writes that it "stands a very good chance of being an early original" by Ruisdael.
Wolfgang Stechow. Salomon van Ruysdael: Eine Einführung in seine Kunst. 2nd, rev., enl. ed. Berlin, 1975, p. 58.
Peter C. Sutton. A Guide to Dutch Art in America. Grand Rapids, Mich., 1986, p. 191, suggests that it may be by Jacob Salomonsz van Ruysdael.
Walter Liedtke. "Dutch and Flemish Paintings from the Hermitage: Some Notes to an Exhibition Catalogue, with Special Attention to Rembrandt, Van Dyck and Jordaens." Oud-Holland 103, no. 3 (1989), pp. 160, 168 nn. 41–42, fig. 9, compares it to Ruisdael's "Small House in a Grove" (Hermitage, St. Petersburg), also signed and dated 1646, finding that the two works "are entirely consistent in execution".
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 331, ill.
Seymour Slive. Jacob van Ruisdael: A Complete Catalogue of His Paintings, Drawings and Etchings. New Haven, 2001, pp. 5, 428–29, 432, no. 609.
Walter Liedtke et al. inJacob van Ruisdael: Die Revolution der Landschaft. Exh. cat., Hamburger Kunsthalle. Zwolle, The Netherlands, 2002, pp. 31, 64–65, 86, no. 8, ill. (color).
Walter Liedtke. Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, vol. 1, p. 500; vol. 2, pp. 786–90, no. 179, colorpl. 179.
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