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Salomon van Ruysdael - River landscape with sailing boats by a village

Salomon van Ruysdael

River landscape with sailing boats by a village

Oil on panel: 9.4(h) x 12.9(w) in / 23.8(h) x 32.7(w) cm

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Naarden 1600/03 - 1670 Haarlem

Ref: CA 118


River landscape with sailing boats by a village


Oil on panel: 9 3/8 x 12 7/8 in / 23.8 x 32.7 cm

Frame size: 14 x 17 ¼ in / 35.6 x 43.8 cm

Painted circa 1645-50

In a black-brown polished Dutch seventeenth century style frame





Mrs Michel van Gelder, Uccle near Brussels, 1914

John Mitchell Gallery, New York, May 1950

EA Jyost, 1952

Christie’s New York, 29th January 1998, lot 116;

Richard Green, London, 1998;

private collection, USA;

by descent



Wolfgang Stechow, Salomon van Ruysdael, Berlin 1975, p.142, no.474


Salomon van Ruysdael’s favourite theme was the river landscape. He painted many examples between 1631, the date on the National Gallery, London’s painting[1] and his last dated river scenes of 1667. In these works he favoured calm waters, narrow, diagonally receding river banks and windswept skies. Very often the static shadow of a fisherman’s rowing boat or a ferryboat in the foreground provides a repoussoir, enhancing spatial recession. Like other Dutch landscapists such as Jan van Goyen (1596-1656) and Meindert Hobbema (1638-1709), Salomon van Ruysdael enjoyed creating variations on his favourite themes and designs, but each work considered individually betrays nothing of a formula or recipe, indeed has a freshness and compelling immediacy.

In the 1630s and early 1640s van Ruysdael explored the fashion for ‘tonal’ landscapes in a gentle palette of soft greens and browns, building atmosphere through interlinked hues, in parallel with his contemporary Jan van Goyen. By circa 1645-50, when this River landscape was made, van Ruysdael was employing stronger colour contrasts and a crisper handling to achieve a composition that is both serenely classical and radiant with light. An exquisite range of blues is the keynote here. Intense cobalt blue in the sky throws into relief the fluffy white clouds drifting across the scene. Ruysdael uses delicate, horizontal slicks of paint at the horizon to depict the clouds reflected in the water, opening up a band of radiance at the left of the painting which takes the eye far into the distance, where the opposite bank of the broad waterway can faintly be discerned. The depth of the painting is enhanced by the shadowed band of water in the foreground and the brown tones of the riverside buildings and church, which act as repoussoirs.

The painting gives a lively sense of everyday life. In the left foreground, a ferry boat laden with five passengers sets off for the village, while another travels in the opposite direction. In the middle distance on the left, its blade-like sail piercing the sky, is one of the shallow-draught cargo boats that transported goods around the watery northern Netherlands far more efficiently than the rutted, muddy roads. More boats cluster round the quayside. With extraordinary control of the brush tip, Ruysdael conjures up figures and a cart loading or unloading goods which are only a few millimetres high, yet read perfectly despite their miniature size. Groups of ducks are judiciously arranged to emphasize the line of the shore, while a pair of birds skims the water in the right foreground, their forward movement balancing the retreat of the ferry boat on the left. An oval of floats supporting a fishing net below the cottages is, like the cargo boats, another subtle indicator of economic activity: fish was, unsurprisingly, a major part of the Dutch diet. The church spire, an important feature of any village, casts its benign protection over human endeavour and the natural world. Ruysdael conjures up a scene that any of his contemporaries would have recognised as containing the essential elements of life in their hard-won nation. 



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 3rd November 1670.


Although Salomon’s teacher is unknown, his early works of c.1626-29 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.


The work of Salomon van Ruysdael is represented in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; the Mauritshuis, The Hague; the Louvre, Paris; the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna; the Hermitage, St Petersburg; the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid; the National Gallery, London; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.


[1] Inv. no.1439; Stechow, op. cit., cat. 435, fig. 10.

Other Works By
Salomon van Ruysdael:

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