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Jacob van Ruisdael, 'Two Watermills and an Open Sluice at Singraven', about 1650-2

Key facts
Full title Two Watermills and an Open Sluice at Singraven
Artist Jacob van Ruisdael
Artist dates 1628/9? - 1682
Date made about 1650-2
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 87.3 × 111.5 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Wynn Ellis Bequest, 1876
Inventory number NG986
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Two Watermills and an Open Sluice at Singraven
Jacob van Ruisdael

The wind seems to chase the clouds across this painting, letting through a fitful sun to light up the tumbling water for one moment. In another it will be gone, falling instead on the sheep on the steep hillside across the valley, perhaps, or the distant windmill and church steeple beyond. The man on the bridge of the sluice is about to close the gate to stop the water pouring through. He seems to pause, perhaps to summon his strength, perhaps just pondering the flickering light on the rushing torrent.

The setting of the mill is entirely van Ruisdael’s invention: there are no hills of the height he shows anywhere in Holland. He travelled quite widely, making sketches and drawings that he used imaginatively in his landscapes. He also used the drawings of Allart van Everdingen, who had been to Scandinavia and returned with mountainous views quite new and exciting in their rough grandeur.

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