Water is the major element in Salomon van Ruysdael's work. Lakes, ponds, rivers, canals, and ditches are the essence of Dutch landscapes, certainly in the vicinity of the municipality of Haarlem.

This painting, one of Ruysdael's finest river landscapes, includes an expanse of water animated by reflections; tonal harmony of browns and ochers; and bright skies with streaks of pink and blue, violet and gray. Ruysdael excelled in atmospheric river views, and--along with Jan van Goyen--was the leading master of this type of picture. The compositional scheme of many of Ruysdael's river scenes is as simple as it is efficient. Water covers the whole foreground and runs off slantingly toward the back. Depth is given to the scene by a building, such as a mill or a church, rising above the trees, with the horizon in the distance. Twentieth-century art historian Max J. Friedlander must have had works like this one in mind when he wrote, "While the weather in van Goyen's pictures makes you feel it will soon rain, Ruysdael's pictures make you feel it has rained, and a fresh wind has driven the rain away."


  • Title: River Landscape with a Church in the Distance
  • Creator: Salomon van Ruysdael
  • Date Created: c. 1655-1660
  • Physical Dimensions: w80.3 x h50.8 cm (unframed)
  • Type: Painting
  • External Link: MFAH
  • Medium: Oil on wood
  • Credit Line: The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, museum purchase funded by the Brown Foundation Accessions Endowment Fund

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