This painting, for some time thought to be by an unknown artist, is now considered to be by Jacob van Ruisdael, the leading Dutch landscape painter of the seventeenth century. The rocky hillside lit with patches of sunlight from the broken, scudding clouds overhead is typical of van Ruisdael’s work.
The trees outlined against the sky and tossing in the wind create a dramatic sense of movement, which gives a sense of endurance to the two figures, a man and a child hand in hand. They are dwarfed by nature but steadfastly climb the steep path to the cottage hidden in the woods.
There are about 20 paintings by van Ruisdael in the National Gallery’s collection, both landscapes and seascapes – for example A Landscape with a Ruined Castle and a Church, one of his most famous landscapes, and Vessels in a Fresh Breeze.
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