Woodland scenes on a modest scale had been among the earliest of Ruisdael's paintings. This painting of a dark majestic forest scene, probably of the late 1660s, is one of the most ambitious of the painter's studies of trees. They are shown here in a stilled and unusual setting, growing from the waters of a pool. The oaks in the centre, their foliage mirrored in the shapes of the passing clouds, are contrasted with the brighter trunks of the beech trees to the right. This scene of tranquillity is interrupted by the hunter with his dog coursing a hare in the centre of the pool. The mood of gradual yet inescapable decay strikes a melancholy note, which can often be found in the artist's paintings for the period.
The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN