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Jacob van Ruisdael, A Landscape with a Ruined Building

Key facts
Full title A Landscape with a Ruined Building at the Foot of a Hill by a River
Artist Jacob van Ruisdael
Artist dates 1628/9? - 1682
Date made about 1655
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 22.8 × 29.3 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Wynn Ellis Bequest, 1876
Inventory number NG991
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
A Landscape with a Ruined Building
Jacob van Ruisdael

There is a feeling of melancholy about this composition. The sky is dark and oppressive, and the background is dominated by shadowy cliffs. In the right foreground, the fallen birch tree – a common device to help give an impression of depth to a view – hints at the destructive power of nature. The jagged edges of the stump suggest that it has been blown down by a storm rather than felled with an axe, and this seems to have happened recently: the leaves on the branches are dying but still show signs of green.

To add to this sense of decay, the top of the tower in the middle ground and the walls behind it also seem to be in ruins. The title of the painting refers to this simply as a building but it is almost certainly a church. Gravestones lean up against the nave, which is also ruined and roofless.

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