Dulwich Picture Gallery II


Jacob van Ruisdael DPG105

DPG105 – A Waterfall

1670s; canvas, 98.5 x 83.4 cm
Signed, lower centre right: JvRui∫dael (JvR as monogram)1

?Pictures to be sold (early 1790s), p. 1, no. 19 (in Study), ‘Ruisdael; Upright landscape; 10 gs.’;2 Bourgeois Bequest, 1811; Britton 1813, p. 26, no. 257 (‘Small Drawing Room contd / no. 10, Landscape with Waterfall – C[anvas] Ruysdael’; 4' x 3'6").

Cat. 1817, p. 9, no. 153 (‘SECOND ROOM – East Side; A Water-Fall; Ruysdael’); Haydon 1817, p. 385, no. 153;3 Cat. 1820, p. 9, no. 153; Hazlitt 1824, p. 36;4 Patmore 1824a, p. 188;5 Patmore 1824b, p. 39, no. 145;6 Cat. 1830, p. 11, no. 224; Smith 1829–42, vi (1835), p. 99, no. 314 (‘Worth 300 gs.’); Waagen 1838, ii, p. 191; Hazlitt 1843, p. 29;7 Waagen 1854, ii, p. 344;8 Denning 1858 and 1859, no. 154; Sparkes 1876, p. 156, no. 154; Richter & Sparkes 1880, p. 146, no. 154;9 Havard & Sparkes 1885, p. 205, no. 154; Michel 1890b, p. 86, no. 154; Richter & Sparkes 1892 and 1905, pp. 26–7, no. 105; HdG, iv, 1911, p. 82, no. 247 (Engl. edn 1912, p. 82: of the last period); Cook 1914, pp. 63–4, no. 105;10 Cook 1926, pp. 59–60; Rosenberg 1928, p. 83, no. 190; Simon 1927–30, p. 74, no. 247 (Jan van Kessel); Cat. 1953, p. 35, no. 105; Stechow 1966, p. 213, note 20; Murray 1980a, p. 116;11 Murray 1980b, pp. 25–6; Beresford 1998, pp. 216–17; Slive 2001, pp. 11, 49, 204, no. 212 (1670s); Jonker & Bergvelt 2016, pp. 218–9; RKD, no. 284879: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/284879 (June 20, 2017).

London/Leeds 1947–53, n.p., no. 46 (A. Blunt; a late work);12 London 1952–3, p. 62, no. 314; Tokyo/Shizuoka/Osaka/Yokohama 1986–7, pp. 122–3, no. 30 (in Japanese; C. Brown; 1665–70); Houston/Louisville 1999–2000, pp. 192–3, no. 67 (D. Shawe-Taylor).

The plain-weave medium linen canvas support bears an old, slightly lumpy, glue-paste lining and a more recent tencate and Beva strip-lining; the original tacking margins have been cut. The canvas was initially prepared with a dark-brownish buff ground, with an additional grey inlay under the sky. Over time some areas of the paint, notably the half-tone scumbles in the water, have increased in transparency, allowing the dark ground colour to show through disturbingly, and isolating the thicker highlights in these parts. There is some thinness in the darks and some light wear in the mountain and in the foreground. The paint film bears a fine craquelure all over. There are several old small losses, particularly along the bottom edge where the paint has previously been noted as friable.13

Previous recorded treatment: 1866, ‘revived’, varnished and frame regilded; 1935, frame and stretcher paraffined; 1986, strip-lined, surface cleaned, retouched and varnished, National Maritime Museum, E. Hamilton-Eddy; 2000, frame treated for insect infestation using Thermo Lignum Warmair process, cleaned, varnish and retouchings removed, losses filled, retouched, varnished, N. Ryder.

1) Jacob van Ruisdael, Landscape with Waterfall, signed JVRuisdael, panel, 142 x 195 cm. Van der Hoop Collection, City of Amsterdam, on loan to RM, Amsterdam, SK-C-210 [1].14
2) Jacob van Ruisdael, Cottage in a Northern Mountainous Landscape with a Waterfall, black chalk and grey wash, 196 x 233 mm. The Morgan Library, New York, III, 218.15
3) Allaert van Everdingen, Swedish Landscape with Waterfall, canvas, 105 × 89 cm. RM, Amsterdam, SK-A-107.16
4) Hendrick Goltzius, Landscape with a Waterfall (one of a series of four), signed HG (as monogram), c. 1650–75, woodcut on blue paper, 113 x 145 mm. BM, London, W,5.42.17
5) Aegidius Sadeler II after Roelandt Savery, Landscape with a Woody Path on the Edge of an Expansive River and a Town Beyond (one of a series of landscape scenes), engraving, 233 x 288 mm. BM, London, 1981,1212.11.18
6) Hercules Segers, River Valley with Waterfall, c. 1610–38, hand-coloured etching and aquatint, printed in blue ink, with grey and brown watercolour (second state), 115 x 185 mm. BM, London, S.5519.19
7) Copy: Ralph Cockburn, A Waterfall, c. 1816–20, aquatint, 226 x 179 mm (Cockburn 1830, no. 20), DPG [2].20

Waterfalls – a feature unknown in the landscape of the Netherlands – were an important theme in Ruisdael’s œuvre. He began to paint them in the second half of the 1650s, at first in a vertical format, then in the 1660s and early 1670s in a horizontal format as well (Related works, no. 1) [1]. DPG105 dates from the 1670s. It is important to remember that Ruisdael’s scene here is imaginary, made up of Scandinavian or German elements. Only one drawing by him of a Northern landscape has survived, of something he had probably never seen (Related works, no. 2).

In choosing such subjects Ruisdael was to some extent inspired by the popularity of works by Allaert van Everdingen (1621–75).21 In 1644–5 Van Everdingen had travelled to the south-east coast of Norway and to western Sweden, where he was profoundly affected by the dramatic landscapes. Back in the Netherlands, he had begun to paint landscapes with Northern motifs by 1648 — mountain views, rock and water scenes, and waterfalls – and he continued to do so for the rest of his career (Related works, no. 3). On the other hand, Ruisdael was already interested in waterfalls in the 1650s, and had presumably seen them during his travels in Germany. Furthermore, he was also following an earlier Dutch tradition of waterfall scenes, chiefly in prints and drawings by Hendrick Goltzius (1558–1617; Related works, no. 4) and Roelant Savery (1576–1639), who depicted mountainous scenes in the Tyrol (Related works, no. 5).22 The fantasy landscapes of Hercules Segers (1589/90–1633) were also earlier in depicting waterfalls (Related works, no. 6).

A number of Ruisdael’s waterfall scenes contain elements that might be interpreted as symbolic – castles, ruined huts, and so on. Some critics have seen a connection between the waterfall motif and references in contemporary literature to the cascade, a topos for the transience of human life.23 The play on Ruisdael’s name found in Houbraken also comes somewhat earlier in religious moralizing literature: in the writings of Jan Luyken (1708) the emblem of a waterfall with the motto ‘Tot verdooving’, ‘To deafening’, points the contrast between the noise of the waterfall and the silence of God:

Indeed, tranquillity came to this life,
which now for so long and many days
inhabited this valley of noise [Ruis-dal],
a place that must displease this life.
Oh valley of noise [Ruis-dal], all vanity,
from the turbulent and teeming life
that the world gives in the realm of time,
one must flee and forsake you.

Others, however, have rejected the interpretation of Ruisdael’s works as allegorical or symbolic, arguing that such moralizing is too unspecific for it to be decoded today.

The present picture would presumably have attracted Desenfans and Bourgeois for its sublime, Romantic character. Others disapproved. German authors including Goethe, Schlegel and Kugler, and the 19th-century theorist Théophile Thoré-Bürger (1807–69), favoured the Heimath-getreuen, the painters faithful to the homeland: Dutch landscape painters should depict real Dutch landscapes, with features such as windmills. Painters who went to foreign countries, be it Scandinavia or Italy, were regarded as traitors.25

Jacob van Ruisdael
Waterfall, 1670s
canvas, oil paint 98,5 x 83,4 cm
Dulwich (London), Dulwich Picture Gallery, inv./cat.nr. DPG105

Jacob van Ruisdael
Landscape with a waterfall, a church in the distance
panel, oil paint 142 x 195 cm
lower right : JvRüifdael
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, inv./cat.nr. SK-C-210

Ralph Cockburn after Jacob van Ruisdael
Waterfall, 1816-1820
paper, aquatint 226 x 179 mm
Dulwich (London), Dulwich Picture Gallery


1 Denning noted that the picture had two signatures: ‘Once painted by Ruïsdael, and again by Sir F. Bourgeois who had not seen the former signature, & therefore inserted the painter’s name in larger characters’ (Denning 1859, no. 154). The latter has been removed.

2 As suggested in London/Leeds 1947–53, no. 46 (A. Blunt).

3 ‘RUYSDAEL. A Waterfall. In a most capital style.’

4 ‘Here (to pass from one kind of excellence to another with kindly interchange) is a clear sparkling Water-fall, by Ruysdael [145] [DPG105] and Hobbema’s Water-Mill [131] [DPG87] […] Is not this a sad anti-climax, from Jacob’s Dream to a picture of a Water-Mill? We do not know; and we should care as little, could we but paint either of the pictures.’

5 Under DPG168, see note 2.

6 ‘In these scenes Ruysdael was unrivalled. The water is touched with extraordinary truth and spirit: it leaps, foams, and sparkles along most merrily; and that part of it which is flowing over the shallows is as transparent as crystal.’

7 See note 4 above.

8 ‘In this finely composed scene the brown tone is too prominent, and the handling almost too broad. […] (No. 224).’

9 ‘It has been stated that J. van Ruisdael painted waterfall scenery only in his latest period; the style of the signature on this picture certainly tends to confirm the correctness of this observation.’

10 ‘(The signature “Ruysdael” is said to mark his earlier works.)’

11 ‘A late work […] Perhaps the “upright landscape” in an undated Desenfans list of “Pictures to be sold.”’

12 Blunt was the first to suggest that this was perhaps the upright landscape in the list of ‘Pictures to be sold’: see note 2.

13 See E. Hamilton-Eddy (National Maritime Museum), Condition Report with recommendations for treatment, July 1986; Dulwich Conservation Files, DPG105.

14 RKD, no. 72175: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/72175 (June 13, 2017); see also http://hdl.handle.net/10934/RM0001.COLLECT.5332 (June 18, 2017). Bergvelt, Filedt Kok & Middelkoop 2004, p. 88, pl. 29 (N. Middelkoop); Pollmer 2004, p. 171, no. 150.

15 Turner 2006, i, pp. 174–5, no. 262, ii, fig. 262; Slive 2005, pp. 218–19, no. 90.

16 http://hdl.handle.net/10934/RM0001.COLLECT.6673 (June 15, 2017).

17 https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/P_W-5-42 (June 27, 2020).

18 https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/P_1981-1212-11 (June 27, 2020).

19 https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/P_Sheepshanks-5519 (June 27, 2020).

20 RKD, no. 284880: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/284880 (June 20, 2017).

21 For the relationship between Ruisdael and Van Everdingen see Davies 1978, pp. 217–29.

22 Walford 1991, p. 35.

23 Wiegand 1971.

24 Wel aan den Leven werd bedaard, /Dat nu zo lange en veelde daagen, / Bewoonder van het Ruis-dal waard, / Een Plaas die ‘t Leven moest mishaagen. / Ô Ruis-dal, aller ydelheid, / Van ’t woelend en krioelend leven, / Der wereld geeft in ’t ryk der tyd, / Men moet u vlieden en begeeven: Luyken 1708. The allusion was noted by Brom 1957, p. 212; see Giltaij 1987, p. 451.

25 Carasso 1999; see also Bergvelt 1998, pp. 188, 338–9 (notes 176–9).

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