Jacob van Ruisdael: Master of Landscape Hardcover – 27 Jun 2005
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Jacob van Ruisdael, the pre-eminent Dutch landscape painter of the seventeenth century, is renowned for the unmatched number of subjects he depicted and the wealth of closely observed naturalistic detail in his works. In this elegant catalogue, published to accompany an international retrospective, the reader is taken on a journey through the many landscapes captured by Ruisdael's observant eye. In a fascinating discussion of Ruisdael's paintings, drawings and etchings, renowned scholar Seymour Slive examines the various landscapes depicted by the artist from the plains of Haarlem to its bleaching fields, to wind and water mills, forests and woods, grains fields and Scandinavian waterfalls. Lavishly illustrated this book covers works ranging from early pieces produced in Haarlem in 1646 aged seventeen to a celebrated series of his mature masterworks.
About the Author
Seymour Slive is Gleason Professor of Fine Arts emeritus at Harvard University and former Director of the Harvard University Art Museums. He has written extensively, in particular on Rembrandt, Frans Hals and Ruisdael and recently published Dutch Paintings: 1600 - 1800 (1995) and Jacob van Ruisdael: A Complete Catalogue of His Paintings, Drawings and Etchings (2001).
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When we consider the limitations of the palette available before the end of the nineteenth century, it is astounding what magic the earlier painters achieved. Earth colors were the basis of all paintings and there were no stable strong greens at all, and only one pure blue derived from lapis, (smalt was a tricky pigment to use and varied much from source to source, many degrading with time). Yet, with this close palette Ruisdael created images full of transient light and worlds within the the deepest shadows; shadows in which we know the pungent life of the earth exists. Inside Jacob Van Ruisdael's paintings there is all Time and its perpetual unrecorded passage.
While no reproduction can convey the real eloquence of Ruisdale's work, it is a boon to have an extensive overview of his work accompanied by a text which places his work within the context of his contemporaries and historical period. While the text by Seymour Slive is in most respects good, he observes that Ruisdale did not "slavishly" imitate nature as many other artists of the period. Slive can have little understanding of what drawing and painting from nature consisted of before the advent of photography and especially, color photography. Any artist in pre-photography days had to contend with ever shifting light and clouds, the restless form and contours of vegetation (watch a flower in sunlight and, in minutes, it will have altered it position and form as it follows the sun) birds and animals come and go, moving water flows, puddles evaporate. And the living scene is three-dimensional; the eye focuses near and far, exercising a constant discriminating selection from a potential chaos. Early painters had to understand and interpret with each stroke of the brush. It is today's painters who slavishly imitate, not nature, but photography, rigidly adhering to a far less resonant, mutable, or worthy master.
Many years ago I saw Jacob Van Ruisdael's The Jewish Cemetery in the collection of the Detroit Institute of Art (my first exposure to the artist's work) and for me it has remained as one of the best demonstrations of what is the function and great role of art in divining the mystery of existence.
Price/quality very good
The Dutch painter van Ruisdael not only painted vistas of landscapes in the raw, he also found majesty in villages, cities and rural scenes, seascapes, beaches, and the many rivers and bridges that seduced his sensitive eye: his numerous paintings reveal a wealth of closely observed naturalistic detail. Author Seymour Slive was Professor of Fine Arts and director of the Harvard University art museums and his depth of knowledge of not only van Ruisdael but also of the other Dutch painters of this time gives him a depth of knowledge and grace of writing that makes this truly a book to not only enjoy visually but to read as well.
This book coupled with Slive's other volume 'Jacob Van Ruisdael: A Complete Catalogue of His Paintings, Drawings, and Etchings' are the definitive tomes about Dutch landscape painting. Though this book was intended as a catalogue to the traveling exhibition of van Ruisdael's paintings and drawings, it is truly the preeminent text for the libraries of all art lovers. Highly recommended. Grady Harp, October 05