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Jacob van Ruisdael, Three Watermills with Washerwomen

Key facts
Full title Three Watermills with Washerwomen
Artist Jacob van Ruisdael
Artist dates 1628/9? - 1682
Date made about 1670
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 60 × 74 cm
Acquisition credit Wynn Ellis Bequest, 1876
Inventory number NG989
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Three Watermills with Washerwomen
Jacob van Ruisdael

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.

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