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Jacob van Ruisdael, A Road winding between Trees towards a Distant Cottage

Key facts
Full title A Road winding between Trees towards a Distant Cottage
Artist Jacob van Ruisdael
Artist dates 1628/9? - 1682
Date made probably 1645-50
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 32.6 × 30.4 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Wynn Ellis Bequest, 1876
Inventory number NG988
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
A Road winding between Trees towards a Distant Cottage
Jacob van Ruisdael

A rutted road leads into a wood and winds round to the right and over a rise to disappear. This is an often repeated theme in Jacob van Ruisdael’s early paintings – scenes of the Dutch countryside designed to please busy city dwellers wanting a moment of tranquillity in the home, or a reminder of pleasant days out among nature.

But X-ray images show that the picture once looked very different – the whole of the small scene beyond the two figures climbing up the rise is a late addition. Why van Ruisdael made the change, we don't know. Without the sun tipping the leaves of the distant trees, the picture would become much darker and more sombre. The oak tree against the sky would be almost overpowering – something far removed from a comforting rustic scene.

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