Jacob Van Ruisdael (Circle)

Forest View With Birch Trees

Jacob Van Ruisdael (Circle)

Forest View With Birch Trees

This vigorous late 17th-century oil on panel depicts a rugged forest landscape with figures and distant town.

Dominating the centre of the composition, contorted birch trees tower above two hiking figures. Drawing the eye, they enhance an intelligent composition with three lines of sight to explore. On the left, a gentle stream arrives at a watermill with its roof nestled into foliage. While through the centre, a winding track, shaded by a canopy, disappears towards a church. And on the right, an open expanse across lowland scenery culminates in a hazy spire to signify life.

This complex intertwined view was produced around 350 years ago by an artist acutely aware of Jacob van Ruisdael (c. 1629-1682), the great Dutch master of landscape painting. Ruisdael represents the pinnacle of the Dutch Golden Age and numerous artists adopted his style to meet a burgeoning demand for his works. But we also see the influence of earlier Flemish painters including Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), particularly in the colouring.

One painter to work in this manner was Jan Looten (1617/18-c.1681) who lived in Amsterdam before moving to London. His majestic views capture the mystery of the forest with man insignificant amid nature’s abundant power. A popular philosophy for art buyers of the period. This era of Dutch landscape painting was entirely unique and underpinned the development of the genre for centuries to come. In the 19th century, numerous British artists looked to the Dutch masters for guidance, often referencing their compositions when considering British views.

Due to the popularity of such paintings, many have been wrongly attributed in an effort to raise their value. During his lifetime, Ruisdael’s works were selling for 40 guilders compared to the market average of just 19 guilders, which proved too tempting for many dealers and even the artists themselves.

As such, this particular piece displays an old Ruisdael monogram, which has been overpainted at a later date. And, on the reverse, various auction labels refer to a student of Ruisdael’s, Meindert Hobbema (1638-1709). If it was by either artist, the value could be in excess of £100,000. Although we feel it’s unlikely given several stylistic differences. But perhaps the saddest part of the story is that, when a painting is upgraded incorrectly, the original signature is often overpainted, so the artist’s true identity is lost forever. An X-Ray may reveal it but it’s not assured. Alas, sometimes the greed in the art industry erases centuries of fascinating history.

However, unscrupulous activity aside, it remains a remarkable painting and a worthy addition to any collection.

Held in a splendid gilt frame with foliate.

Medium: Oil on panel
Overall size: 34½” x 28” / 88cm x 71cm
Year of creation: c. 1670
Labels & Inscriptions: Various labels on reverse referring to Meindert Hobbema along with further auction labels.
Condition: Artwork presents well. Fine craquelure but the paint is stable. Darkening. Old repairs to cracks in the panel but now stable. Frame with some light wear.

Conservation & History

We care profoundly about our role as custodians and every piece in the collection has been assessed by our conservator. When required, we undertake professional restoration carefully using reversible techniques and adopt a light touch to retain the aged charm of each work. We also restore frames rather than replace them as many are original and selected by the artists themselves.

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