Jacob van Ruisdael is regarded as the premier painter of landscapes within Dutch painting from the second half of the 17th century.
Master in the Guild of Painters in Haarlem
Road through an Oak Forest is thought to have been painted at a time where Ruisdael was only 18 or 19 years of age and was about to be accepted as a master in the Guild of Painters in his home town of Haarlem. The romantic atmosphere and harmonious composition shows the influence of his uncle Salomon van Ruisdael (c. 1602-1670), who may have been his teacher.
Large-scale format and varied colour scheme
With the large-scale format and a more varied colour scheme he moved away from the "tonal" landscape painting founded by the first generation of Haarlem landscape painters as represented by e.g. Jan van Goyen (1596-1656).
The idealised landscape
In Road though an Oak Forest the large, monumental oaks show the early beginnings of the idealised landscape that came to be his trademark. The half-dead tree crowns and the overgrown tree stump to the right in the picture’s foreground may be read as allusions to the brevity of life and how all things must perish. Well hidden, Ruisdael also painted a courting couple in the dark forest in the background.