Fishing Boats on a River

Salomon van Ruysdael (Dutch, Naarden, born ca. 1600–1603, died 1670 Haarlem)
early 1660s
Oil on wood
Overall, with added strips, 14 3/4 x 21 7/8 in. (37.5 x 55.6 cm); painted surface 14 1/4 x 21 1/4 in. (36.2 x 54 cm)
Credit Line:
From the Collection of Rita and Frits Markus, Bequest of Rita Markus, 2005
Accession Number:
Not on view
In his many river views Van Ruysdael paid close attention to types of boats and the buildings they sail by. Here, however, his main concerns seem optical: silhouettes, reflections, and a panoramic view over water shining like polished pewter.
Stechow (1975) dated this striking picture to the 1660s. The same form of monogram seen on this painting has been found on pictures dating from 1659 to 1668.

The work wonderfully suggests a view from on or at the edge of the water, which seems almost to roll away from the viewer to the subtly curved horizon. Clouds and patches of sky are reflected in the river, which has a sheen like polished pewter. Also mirrored in the water's gently rippled surface are the two fishing boats at left and the rowboat to the right, where two men haul in a net and another busies himself with a line.

At least ten sailboats can easily be counted, and half a dozen more are suggested by strokes in the center background. The entire horizon is filled by a trace of land, indicating that the scene is set in a wide stretch of river. Birds skim the surface and soar overhead, and four cows are visible in the right background, recalling Cuyp in the space of a thumbprint.

The panoramic composition, with its main motif strongly silhouetted, brings to mind paintings by Jan van Goyen, especially those of the 1650s. Ruysdael had been painting similar views since the early 1650s, some of them even closer to this work than The Met's Marine (71.98), dated 1650. The bold pattern of this picture is, however, more characteristic of the early 1660s, to judge from a few dated works.

[2016; adapted from Liedtke 2007]
Inscription: Signed (on boat at left): SvR [vR in monogram]
[W. E. Duits, Amsterdam, in 1929]; Otto Heinrich Hirschmann, Amsterdam; private collection, England (in 1938); [Van Dieman Gallery, London]; Mr. and Mrs. D. Birnbaum, New York (in 1942); Frits and Rita Markus, New York (by 1975–his d. 1996); Rita Markus, New York (1996–d. 2005)
New York. Duveen Galleries. "Paintings by the Great Dutch Masters of the Seventeenth Century," October 8–November 7, 1942, no. 57.

New York. M. Knoedler and Company. "Dutch Masters of the Seventeenth Century," February 5–24, 1945, no. 15.

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.

Wolfgang Stechow. Salomon van Ruysdael: Eine Einführung in seine Kunst. Berlin, 1938, pp. 27, 104, no. 316, fig. 43, attributes it to Ruysdael and dates it to the 1660s, calling it an extraordinary late work; as in a private collection, England.

Wolfgang Stechow. Salomon van Ruysdael: Eine Einführung in seine Kunst. 2nd, rev., expanded ed. Berlin, 1975, pp. 27, 115–16, no. 316, fig. 56, as in the F. Markus collection, New York.

Walter Liedtke in "Recent Acquisitions, A Selection: 2005–2006." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 64 (Fall 2006), p. 36.

Esmée Quodbach. "The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 65 (Summer 2007), pp. 65, 67.

Walter Liedtke. Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, vol. 2, pp. 819–20, no. 190, colorpl. 190, fig. 237 (color detail).