Jacob van Ruisdael represents the pinnacle of seventeenth-century Dutch landscape painting. This great artist, the son of a painter and the nephew of Salomon van Ruysdael (see NGA 2007.116.1), began his career in Haarlem but moved to Amsterdam in about 1656. His long and productive career yielded a wide variety of landscape scenes that reflect Ruisdael’s vision of the grandeur and powerful forces of nature.

In this landscape, a waterfall transforms the gentle flow of a small river into a turbulent stream that rushes toward a wooden bridge. A mother and child, accompanied by their dog, cross the bridge toward a path into a densely forested, somewhat hilly terrain. Three large oak trees—one dead, one withering, and one sturdy specimen—dominate the center of the composition. The juxtaposition of dead and broken trees with a fast-flowing stream in a rocky landscape is likely an allegorical reference to the transience of life. Ruisdael often composed his scenes so as to limit the viewer's easy access into the landscape, thereby increasing the tension in his art. This painting offers a good example of that principle: The opposite shore can be reached only by way of the bridge, but the juncture of the bridge and the near shore is inaccessible to the viewer as it occurs outside of the picture.


  • Title: Landscape
  • Creator: Jacob van Ruisdael
  • Date Created: c. 1670
  • Physical Dimensions: overall: 53.2 x 60 cm (20 15/16 x 23 5/8 in.) framed: 78.7 x 85.1 x 9.5 cm (31 x 33 1/2 x 3 3/4 in.)
  • Provenance: Baron Etienne Martin de Beurnonville [1789-1876], château de la Chapelle, Labbeville, Val d'Oise; (his estate sale, by Pillet, Paris, 9-14 and 16 May 1881[12 May], no. 453); (Charles Sedelmeyer, Paris). Prince Johann II of Liechtenstein [1840-1929], Vienna and later Vaduz, by 1896;[1] (Frederick Mont, New York); purchased 18 October 1951 by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York;[2] gift 1961 to NGA. [1] The first reference to the existence of the painting in the Liechtenstein Collection is in 1896 (see Wilhelm von Bode, _Die Fürstlich Liechtenstein'sche Galerie in Wien_, Vienna, 1896, 99). Gustav Friedrich Waagen's earlier account of a Ruisdael _Landscape with a Bridge_ in the Liechtenstein Collection (Gustav Friedrich Waagen, _Die vornehmsten Kunstdenkmäler in Wien_, Vienna, 1866: 287), must refer to a different work because the Washington painting was sold by the Baron de Beurnonville only in 1881. The provenance given in Strohmer's 1943 catalogue of the Liechtenstein Collection (Erich V. Strohmer, _Die Gemäldegalerie des Fürstern Liechtenstein in Wien_, Vienna, 1943) is incorrect; in the 1948 Lucerne exhibition catalogue (_Meisterwerke aus den Sammlungen des Fürsten von Liechtenstein_, Kunstmuseum), this painting's provenance was associated with the wrong painting. [2] The bill from Frederick Mont to the Kress Foundation for three paintings from the Liechtenstein collection, including this one, is dated 18 October 1951; payment was made four days later (copy of annotated bill in NGA curatorial files, see also The Kress Collection Digital Archive, https://kress.nga.gov/Detail/objects/1217).
  • Medium: oil on canvas

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