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Salomon van Ruysdael - A choppy sea with boats and a tower on a spit of land

Salomon van Ruysdael

A choppy sea with boats and a tower on a spit of land

Oil on panel: 12.9(h) x 12.9(w) in / 32.7(h) x 32.7(w) cm
Signed with monogram lower left: SVR

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Naarden Naarden 1600/03 - 1670 Haarlem

Ref: BY 171


A choppy sea with boats and a tower on a spit of land


Signed with monogram

Oil on panel: 12 7/8 diameter in / 32.7diameter cm

Frame Size: 19½ x 19½ in/ 49.5 x 49.5 cm


Painted in the mid-1630s





T.H. Filmer and Sons, London;

by whom sold in an anonymous sale, Christie’s London, January 14, 1876, lot 146, as by Van Goyen (16 gns. to Lesser);

private collection, France, since the end of the nineteenth century



A choppy river view with a crowded rowing boat and several sailing vessels retreat from left to right moving swiftly away from the viewer.  A spit of land with a tower, channel marker, and several grazing cows appears in the middle distance, and the low strip of the far shore is punctuated with a church spire and other buildings. The windswept sky dominates virtually two thirds of the scene and casts bands of light and shadow on the water below.


River scenes were Salon van Ruysdael’s favorite themes. He executed more paintings of this subject than any other landscape theme. Unlike his nephew, Jacob van Ruisdael, Salomon never painted marines proper of the open ocean. However some of his most compelling works are depictions of the broad inland rivers and estuaries that characterize the Dutch nation. They uniquely evoke the Netherlands, where water seems ever present and one is always conscious of being on the threshold of the land and the sea. Salomon was unrivalled among his countrymen in his complementary treatment of the water and sky. 


While the artist repeated components of the present scene literally scores of times, the results were never formulaic. Rather they are compellingly plausible as naturalistic scenes of a river prospect viewed not only for the first time but also firsthand, and, as it were, on the spot, from a vessel in midstream. Salomon first took up the diagonally receding river view with low horizon, silhouetted boats and atmospheric effects in a painting dated 1631 in the National Gallery, London, inv. no. 1439. By the time he painted the present work he had begun to introduce more pronounced contrasts of light and shade, his palette had become more saturated, and his touch thicker. Although Stechow, who wrote the standard monograph on the artist, was unaware of this picture, when it sold at Christie’s in London in 1876, it was misattributed to Jan van Goyen, although it bears Salomon’s autograph monogram, “SVR”, on the rowing boat and is entirely consistent with his style. Jan van Goyen, Salomon van Ruysdael and Pieter de Molijn perfected the “tonalist” landscape style in the late 1620s and early 1630s. Ruysdael and Van Goyen had a mutual influence on one another and probably owed a debt to the seascapist, Jan Porcellis, who is credited with having invented the style. Salomon painted river and estuarial views on a rectangular format, on a horizontal and, later in the ‘50s, upright formats, as well as on oval and circular panels.  Tondo format landscapes by Salomon are the rarest, with fewer than a dozen known to survive (see Stechow 1938/1977, nos. 75 – 82). The vast majority are also small scale and of virtually the same dimension (32.5 to approximately 39.5 cm. in diameter), and almost all are dated 1633 or 1635; in addition to the examples cited by Stechow, see the pair of river views on a tondo format, signed and dated 1633, in Sotheby’s London, 4th July, 2007, no. 30 (panel 39.8 cm), and the undated picture in Tajan, Paris 24th June, 2004, lot 26 (39 cm. in diameter). It is possible therefore that Salomon, like Rembrandt and other Dutch painters, bought their panels from panelmakers in fairly standardized lots. It also seems likely that the present work also dates from the mid-1630s. A special attraction of its execution is the wet-into-wet paint application, which even on the small scale enlivens the surface and enhances the atmospheric effects. A recent cleaning has also revealed the subtle but vivid palette that Salomon began to develop in these years.  


Essay by Dr Peter C Sutton, former Executive Director of the Bruce Museum, Greenwich, Connecticut



Naarden 1600/03 – 1670 Haarlem


Salomon Jacobsz. van Ruysdael was born in Naarden in Gooiland. He was originally called Salomon de Gooyer (Goyer), but he and his brother Isaack (1599 – 1677), who was also an artist, supposedly adopted the name Ruysdael from Castle Ruisdael (or Ruisschendaal), near their father’s hometown. Salomon spelled his name Ruysdael (or occasionally Ruyesdael) as distinguished from his gifted nephew, the landscapist Jacob van Ruisdael (1628/29 – 1682). In 1623 Salomon entered the painters’ guild in Haarlem (as Salomon de Gooyer). He was named a vinder of the guild in 1647, a deacon the following year, and a vinder again in 1669. His earliest dated painting is of 1626 and he was praised as a landscapist as early as 1628 by the chronicler of Haarlem, Samuel Ampzing. He was called a merchant in 1631 and dealt in blue dye for Haarlem’s bleacheries. His wife, Mayken Buysse, was buried in St Bavo’s Church on 25th January 1660. Like his father, Salomon was a Mennonite and in 1669 was listed among the members of the “Vereenigde Vlaamsche, Hooghduitsche en Friesche Gemeente” when he was living in the Kleyne Houtstraat. As a Mennonite he could not bear arms but contributed to Haarlem’s civic guard. Although Salomon seems to have lived in Haarlem his entire life, he made several trips through the Netherlands, making views of, among other places, Leiden, Utrecht, Amersfoort, Arnhem, Alkmaar, Rhenen and Dordrecht. The artist was buried in Haarlem in St Bavo’s on November 3, 1670.


Although Salomon’s teacher is unknown, his early works of c. 1626 – 1629 recall the art of Esaias van de Velde (1587 – 1630), who worked in Haarlem from 1609 – 1618. In addition to Van de Velde’s influence, these early works reveal many parallels with the art of Jan van Goyen (1596 – 1656). Together with Van Goyen, Pieter de Molijn (1595 – 1661), and Pieter van Santvoort (1604/05 – 1635), Salomon was one of the early “tonalist” landscapists of his generation and the artists seem to have had a mutual influence upon one another. These artists laid the foundation for the “classical” period that followed, and which was brought to fruition by Salomon’s nephew, Jacob. In addition to landscapes, numerous river views and seascapes with calm, never stormy waters, Salomon executed a few still lifes in his later years. Salomon was the father of Jacob Salomonsz. van Ruysdael (c.1629/30 – 1681), who also became a landscapist.


General Literature: Samuel Ampzing, Beschrijvinge ende Lof des Stad Haerlem in Holland (Haarlem, 1628); Arnold Houbraken, De Groote Schouburgh der Nederlandse Konstschilders en shilderessen 3 vols. (Amsterdam, 1718 – 1721), vol. 2, p. 124, vol. 3, p. 66; H.F Wijnman, “Het leven der Ruysdaels,” Oud-Holland, vol. 49 (1932), pp. 46 – 60, 172 – 81, 258 – 73; W. Stechow, Salomon van Ruysdael: Eine Einführung in seiner Kunst (Berlin, 1928, reprint Berlin, 1975); idem. Dutch Landscape Painting of the Seventeenth Century (London, 1966), pp. 23 – 28, 38 – 43, 54 – 62, 90 – 91, 103, 113 – 16; L. Bol, Die holländischen Marinemalerei des 17. Jahrhunderts (Braunschweig, 1973), pp. 148 – 56; Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Masters of 17th Century Dutch Landscape Painting (cat. by Peter C. Sutton et al.), 1987 – 88, pp. 466 – 475.




Other Works By
Salomon van Ruysdael:

Salomon van Ruysdael - Landscape with wagons on a sandy road Salomon van Ruysdael - A wijdschip and other small Dutch vessels on an estuary, with a church in the distance


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