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Jacob van Ruisdael, 'Ruins in a Dune Landscape', probably 1650-5

Key facts
Full title Ruins in a Dune Landscape
Artist Jacob van Ruisdael
Artist dates 1628/9? - 1682
Date made probably 1650-5
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 43.2 × 58.5 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1865
Inventory number NG746
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Ruins in a Dune Landscape
Jacob van Ruisdael

The mood in this painting is sombre, even sinister. It’s twilight, with the sky cloudy but – unusual in Jacob van Ruisdael’s landscapes – unmoving. The white walls of the ruins on the steep bank on the right almost give the impression that light is shining from them. The distant sand dunes look lonely and deserted, with the sea little more than a grey shadow.

It’s only after a moment’s careful looking that you can make out the two shadowy figures by the pool at the foot of the bank. Behind them, a pale sheep moves away across the grass; closer to us, the reeds seem to rustle as a ripple runs across the water.

Van Ruisdael, perhaps the greatest Dutch landscape painter of the seventeenth century, here creates a quieter, more atmospheric mood than in his often turbulent, dramatic scenes.

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