RUISDAEL: Painting the Harmony of Colours

The Windmill at Wijk bij Duurstede   Oil on Canvas
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.
It was the year 1657, and a young man was entering the gates of the great city of Amsterdam. It was one of the most prosperous cities in Europe. 

The man had paints, painting brushes, a crowd of blank canvases, and a blank future in his possessions. He wanted to paint his fortune in the city. And he did it. He did it very well.

The Artist: The name of the man entering Amsterdan was Jacob Isaackszoon van Ruisdael (1628-1682). He was known as Ruisdael. He became the most famous artist of his time. The time was known as the Dutch Golden Age. The artist Ruisadale had a palate of bright colours and an environment full of light. His art has the power to entertain the eyes of the viewers. He had the images in his mind which he would paint with a well-recognised concept of the art of painting. 

Look at the above painting The windmill at Wijk bij Duurstede. Ruisdael had painted the windmill. The sea and the boat is an integral part of the painting. We can see the clean network of the light and dark colours used for reproducing the scene on the canvas.

Jacob van Ruisdael          Rough Sea at a Jetty
OIl on Canvas  
Kimbell Art Museum, Fort WorthTexas

What Ruisdael would paint would be the immensity of the space. In his paintings, he would depict the power of nature, the roaring sea, the falling water, the wide-wild fields. The painting of Ruisdale would consist of boats and sea vessels. 

Painting Analysed: Look at the painting Rough Sea at a Jetty.  Together with the elements of light Ruisdael would catch the gust of the wind, too. He would paint it on his canvases.  It was the Golden Age for the Dutch Republic, so the artist would paint the progress of the industry, too. 

Travelling across the country was Ruisdale's passion. He would go to a waterfall and wait for the sun to fall mercifully on the falling water. He would go to the seashore and would call the rays to sleep over the waves of the sea so that he can reproduce that magic on his canvas.

Most of the landscape paintings present an ordered view of nature, Mother Earth. These paintings depict idealized places bathed in golden light or of the countryside, which bears the pleasant marks of habitations.  But that cannot be the case always. The painters with romantic themes, like Ruisdael, have always used untamed nature. They have gone to areas far from civilization for their purpose of catching nature as it is, unpolluted, undisturbed. 

Jacob van Ruisdael
View of Haarlem with Bleachfields

A frame of landscape painting often conveys meanings beyond those that are immediately apparent. Painters have often used the subject of landscape painting to suggest the brevity of human life against the permanence of the natural world. We can measure the futility of human endeavour comparing the same against self-renewing natural cycles.

Painting Analysed: Look at this painting View of Haarlem with Bleachfields. It was acquired in the year 1827 by the Royal Picture Gallery MauritshuisThe Hague.

In this painting View of Haarlem with Bleachfields, if we analyse, there are trees near a marshy pool. In the right background, there is a road that leads our eyes to the hills. The middle ground is also eye-catching. There are cottages and several persons are shown working. Look at the sky, it is filled with great masses of clouds. These clouds overshadow the entire landscape. That is the beauty that the artist had infused into the painting.

Capturing the acts of weather has remained a favourite subject for every artist. Extreme effects of the weather can also be utilised to communicate inspiring messages. Sometimes the message might not be spelt clearly in the object of painting itself. But by the masterly treatment of the subject, the painters have succeeded in creating such effects. The observers also response after seeing the painting. The landscape artist always remains faithful to their art. However, the painters have responded in a variety of ways to the challenge of depicting weather and its elusive atmospheric effect. 

The Skiff (La Yole)      Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Oil on canvas  National Gallery, Central London

Look at this painting by the master artist Renoir. While executing a painting, every artist takes care of various themes and their intellectual meanings, too. Look here, in this landscape painting, wherein Renoir had used everything he had in his stockpile. Like other impressionists this painter, Renoir also used unusual tonal colours to stir up moods and impressions.  

Under influence of Impressionism, the recreation of objective reality was nearly discouraged and was replaced by the practice of developing a subjective response to a piece of work, the painting. It created magical effects on the canvases. 

Look at a similar landscape painted by Van Gogh. Painting the ‘European Landscapes’, Van Gogh had added magic into the art of painting. His palette had expressive and emotive colours on it. The reason was that he used these colours as a master impressionist, painting his canvases in the style. The immediacy of the scene is obvious in these paintings because the impressionist used to paint outside their studios. Van Gogh used mostly brilliant colour to produce the striking light in his paintings. [All the images are in Public Domain, taken from Wikimedia Commons]

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