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Salomon van Ruysdael, A River with Fishermen drawing a Net

Key facts
Full title A River with Fishermen drawing a Net
Artist Salomon van Ruysdael
Artist dates 1600/3? - 1670
Date made 1630-5
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 46.3 × 62.8 cm
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Mrs Mary Venetia James from the Arthur James collection, 1948
Inventory number NG5846
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
A River with Fishermen drawing a Net
Salomon van Ruysdael

This is a picture of calm. The gleaming water is flat and the reflections are perfect. Even the billowing clouds seem to pause overhead to cast shadows on the river. No wind stirs the sails, no flags lift in a breeze and the men in the boat are crouched and still.

The painting could be seen as purely decorative and restorative, but the black dots making a semi-circle on the still water are cork floats defining the outline of a fishing net. Fishing was one of the industries that gave the Dutch Republic its wealth.

These fishermen are ordinary working men, thought worthy of a picture because they were part of the pride that the Dutch had in their building of a new nation: the taming of rivers, the digging and reinforcing of canals and dams, the creation of a new land from the sea by hard labour. Dutch lives and livelihoods were built on water and they wished to celebrate it in all its forms.

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