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Jacob van Ruisdael, An Extensive Landscape with Ruins

Key facts
Full title An Extensive Landscape with Ruins
Artist Jacob van Ruisdael
Artist dates 1628/9? - 1682
Date made probably 1665-75
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 34 × 40 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Salting Bequest, 1910
Inventory number NG2561
Location Room 16
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
An Extensive Landscape with Ruins
Jacob van Ruisdael

A grey, turbulent sky dominates the scene, but our eye is also caught by a patch of light in the fields: the sun has broken through a crack in the clouds.

This sense of fast-changing light brings the whole landscape to life, injecting movement into what otherwise might have been a static scene. This effect helps make it feel as though van Ruisdael has captured a real moment in a real place, but it’s more likely that he was depicting an idealised landscape. He was reflecting an idea that he and his customers had about how Holland should look, and – crucially – the importance of the church.

The tower and spire are central to the picture, tall and resilient against an impending storm – a source of strength when times get rough. Other strongholds, like the ruined medieval castle in the foreground, slowly crumble.

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