Before this important early work resurfaced in 1992, it was known only from a 1781 print, in reverse, by Jacques Bacheley (fig. 1).2 Authors prior to the painting's rediscovery, including the London connoisseur and dealer John Smith, and Cornelis Hofstede de Groot, all based their descriptions on the print. It appears that Ruisdael found reason to keep the painting in his possession for some time, as his pupil Meindert Hobbema (1638 - 1709), who entered the studio around 1658, made a larger free copy of it in about 1660 (fig. 2).
In each of it's stylistic elements, the painting is a stark reminder of how, from his earliest moments as an independent master, Ruisdael revolutionized the landscape genre. Despite it's diminutive scale, Ruisdael is able to combine the powerful features of Haarlem landscape painting, such as the finely delineated and richly textured foliage, reminiscent of Cornelis Vroom (1590-92 - 1661), with other sensitive atmospheric effects, notably the billowing clouds above. He does this with an unprecedented sense of poetry, foretelling his mature compositions that were to have such a tremendous impact on the later Romantic school of landscape painting, notably that of John Constable (1776 - 1837). Here, Ruisdael already represents nature as a metaphor of powerful emotions. The sunlight which pierces through just behind the towering treetop in the center enlivens the otherwise serious mood set forth by the partially overcast sky.
1. Two are panoramic views on Naarden. One is preserved at the RKD, The Hague, and the other is in the Hessisches Landesmuseum, Darmstadt. See S. Slive, Jacob van Ruisdael. Master of Landscape, exhibition catalogue, Los Angeles (Los
Angeles County Museum); Philadelphia (Philadelphia Museum of Art) 2005/06, p. 48.
2. At that time the subject was called: “Vue des environs d'Utrecht”. The print is lettered in the lower margin with its title, dedication and production details: "Ruisdaal Pinxit." and "Bacheley sculp." and "Dédiée à Monsieur le Cornier de Cideville Ancien Conseiller au Parlemens de Normandie / Membre de l'Académie Royale des Sciences, Belles-Lettres et Arts de Rouen / Par son très humble et très obéissant Serviteur Bacheley" and "Tirée du Cabinet de M. Horutener Nég.t à Rouen" and "A Paris Chez Chereau Graveur rue St Jacques prés les Mathurins".
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