Jacob van Ruisdael’s washerwomen are strong and sturdy. One stands in the river up to her ankles and raises a stick to beat the linen she’s washing, while her companion stoops to rinse a cloth. Behind them a heap of dirty washing awaits the attention of their brawny arms. Their dog lifts his head, alert, as two men dump heavy baskets down on the shingle, watched by a small boy. Behind them tower two watermills which are reflected in the river.
The picture is badly worn and much detail has been lost, but van Ruisdael’s masterly technique and ability to portray atmosphere can still be seen in the mills, grey clouds and clifftop trees, all seeming to dwarf the little scene of grinding labour taking place in their shadow.
There are similar works by van Ruisdael in our collection, including A Waterfall at the Foot of a Hill, near a Village and Two Watermills and an Open Sluice at Singraven.
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