Bathed in sunlight breaking through the clouds, a rustic sluice, used to regulate water levels and irrigate farmland, sits above a background of productive pastureland. Jacob van Ruisdael, one of the great Dutch landscape painters of the 1600s, explored a range of landscape motifs in his work, including forest scenes, seascapes, beach scenes, and panoramic landscapes. In Bridge with a Sluice, Ruisdael made an ordinary object monumental by making it larger than all the other elements in the painting, thereby calling attention to its use and placement in the countryside. The diagonal movement of the rugged road at the left draws the eye up toward the sluice and then down to the land below. A single figure populates the scene, but the sluice symbolizes the human presence in nature and human attempts to control it.


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