Dulwich Picture Gallery II


Jacob van Ruisdael DPG168

DPG168 – Landscape with Windmills near Haarlem

c. 1655; oak panel, 31.5 x 33.9 cm
Signed, bottom right: JvR (as monogram)

Bourgeois Bequest, 1811 (as Rembrandt); Britton 1813, p. 24, no. 246 (‘Drawing Room / no. 34, Windmill – Landscape [added in pencil: Ruysdael] P[anel] Rembrandt’; 1'11" x 2').

Cat. 1817, p. 10, no. 171 (‘SECOND ROOM – East Side; A Landscape, with Windmill; Ruysdael’); Haydon 1817, p. 387, no. 171;1 Cat. 1820, p. 10, no. 171; Patmore 1824a, p. 188, no. 159;2 Patmore 1824b, pp. 37–9, no. 159;3 Cat. 1830, p. 12, no. 241; Smith 1829–42, vi (1835), p. 99, no. 315 (‘Worth 40 gs.’); Denning 1858, no. 241; not in Denning 1859; Sparkes 1876, p. 156, no. 241; Richter & Sparkes 1880, p. 146, no. 241 (‘Probably painted before Ruisdael left Harlem (1659)’);4 Havard & Sparkes 1885, p. 205, no. 241; Michel 1890b, p. 86;5 Richter & Sparkes 1892 and 1905, p. 44, no. 168; Ruskin 1897, ii, p. 205; HdG, iv, 1911, p. 57, no. 175 (Engl. edn 1912, pp. 60–61: ‘A fine early work, full of feeling, dating from about 1650–52. The horse in front was probably repainted by the artist himself’); Cook 1914, pp. 103–4, no. 168; Cook 1926, p. 97, no. 168; Simon 1927–30, p. 74, no. 175 (not by Ruisdael, perhaps 18th century); Rosenberg 1928, p. 79, no. 115; Cat. 1953, p. 35, no. 168; Paintings 1954, pp. 10, [60]; Stechow 1966, p. 198, note 48 (certainly not 18th century); Bachrach & Sandberg 1971, n.p., under no. 2 (Constable, now DPG657); Murray 1980a, p. 117;6 Murray 1980b, p. 26; Reynolds 1984, p. 242, under no. 32.44 (Constable); Moore 1988, pp. 52 (fig. 39), 75; Beresford 1998, p. 217; Slive 2001, p. 148, no. 131, p. 149, under no. 132; pp. 698–9 (ill.; mid-1650s); Slive 2005, pp. 30, 33–5, 264; Dejardin 2008, p. 23, fig. 17; Dejardin 2009b, pp. 70–71; Salomon 2010, pp. 20–21; Slive 2011, pp. 16–20, fig. 13; Jonker & Bergvelt 2016, pp. 216–19; Plomp 2020, pp. 55–6, fig. 47; Ram 2020, p. 170, no. 73; RKD, no. 284868: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/284868 (June 20, 2017)

London/Leeds 1947–53, n.p., no. 47 (A. Blunt; an early work, c. 1650–52);7 London 1952–3, p. 63, no. 315; Hove/Lincoln/Sudbury 1993, p. 49, no. 5; Houston/Louisville 1999–2000, pp. 190–91, no. 66 (D. Shawe-Taylor).

Oak panel with horizontal grain. The verso is slightly bevelled at the lower edge, and there is a stencilled inscription, ‘G.H.’, on the reverse. There is some blistering and flaking above the lower edge on the right of the water, and the blue sky is very thin in the upper right corner. Later additions in the form of a painted-out figure group in the centre left of the painting, a figure with a horse on the right-hand side and several blue spots in the foreground were removed during conservation in 1996. Previous recorded treatment: 1866, ‘revived’, revarnished; 1945, conserved (including varnish removal), Dr Hell; 1979, treated for blistering and flaking along the lower edge, National Maritime Museum, E. Hamilton-Eddy; 1996, technical analysis carried out, L. Sheldon; conserved, N. Ryder.

1) Jacob van Ruisdael, Extensive Landscape with a View of Haarlem from the North-West (Overveen), c. 1660–70, black chalk and grey wash, 92 x 151 mm. RPK, RM, Amsterdam, RP-T-1961-43 [1]8
2) Rembrandt, View from the Dunes near Bloemendaal with the Estate of Saxenburg in the Foreground and Haarlem in the Background, c. 1651, pen in brown ink and pencil in brown and grey, 89 x 152 mm. BvB, Rotterdam, R 130.9
3) Dirck Eversen Lons, Seem Moolen (leather mill; one of a series of four), c. 1614–31, inscriptions, engraving, 205 (trimmed) x 168 mm. BM, London, 1868,0612.310 [2].10
4) Jacob van Ruisdael, A Windmill near Fields, monogrammed and dated 1646, panel, 49.5 x 68.5 cm. Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, O., Mr and Mrs William Marlatt Fund, 1967.19 [3].11
5) Jacob van Ruisdael, Landscape with Windmill, black chalk, 145 x 195 mm. Print Room, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Dresden, C 1280.12
6) Jacob van Ruisdael, Windmill and House near the Water, black chalk, 94 x 151 mm. Kunsthalle, Bremen (not seen since 1945).13
7) Jacob van Ruisdael, Windmill near a River and the Ruins of Egmond Abbey and the Buurkerk at Egmond-Binnen, panel, 31.2 x 33.4 cm. The Earl of Northbrook, London.14
8) Jacob van Ruisdael, Mill at Wijk bij Duurstede, signed Ruisdael, c. 1670, canvas, 83 × 101 cm. Van der Hoop Collection, City of Amsterdam, on loan to RM, Amsterdam, SK-C-211 [4].15
9) Abraham Bloteling after Jacob van Ruisdael, View of Hogesluis seen from the Utrecht Side (?), no. 1 (frontispiece) of the series Amstel-Gesichjes (Views of the Amstel), inscriptions, etching, 165 x 216 mm. RPK, RM, Amsterdam, RP-P-1921-425 [5].16
10) Copy: perhaps 18th-century English, panel, 16¾ x 21¾ in. (42.55 x 55.25 cm). Davis Collection, New York.17
11) Copy: John Constable, Landscape with Windmills near Haarlem, 1831, panel, 31.6 x 34 cm. DPG657 [6].18
12) Copy: Ralph Cockburn, Landscape, with a Windmill, c. 1816–1820, aquatint, 130 x 181 mm (Cockburn 1830, no. 40), DPG [7].19

Lent to the RA to be copied in 1830.

The handling and subject matter are typical of Ruisdael’s work in the mid-1650s. Two windmills are set against a dramatic sky, with a view of the church of St Bavo at Haarlem in the background. Slive considered that it did not correspond to topographical views of Haarlem, but there are several views from the dunes near Bloemendaal (to the west) and Overveen (to the north-west) where St Bavo is shown with closely set mills – for instance in a drawing by Ruisdael himself (Related works, no. 1) [1] and in one by Rembrandt (Related works, no. 2) – and there were windmills all around Haarlem. Pieter Biesboer considers that this is a view from the south-east: the mills are on the edge of low sand dunes, and in the foreground is a drainage creek; beyond is some peat land, beyond that are the treetops of the Haarlemmerhout (the forest at the southern end of Haarlem), and then St Bavo and the tower of the Bakenesserkerk. Next to the mills are piles of wood for the barrels with leach used in the bleaching fields (often depicted by Ruisdael), of which there were many near Haarlem to bleach the linen of Haarlem and Amsterdam households.20

Artists took liberties when depicting landscapes, and that was certainly the case when they depicted windmills.21 The two windmills here are both grondzeilers (ground-sailers), a round and an eight-sided one (see also Related works, no. 3) [2], and both seem to be thatched.22 Windmills are one of Ruisdael’s characteristic subjects, although he painted many more waterfalls. In general Dutch painters were not as interested in windmills as a 21st-century (art-)historian might expect them to have been. Ruisdael began producing pictures of windmills from the start of his career, as can be seen, for example, in a painting in Cleveland of 1646 (Related works, no. 4) [3] and a roughly contemporary group of black chalk sketches now in Dresden. One of the latter shows a mill, of another type (wipmolen, a wip mill or hollow post mill), in the same position as the main one in DPG168 (Related works, no. 5). In another drawing the mill is an eight-sided ground-sailer like the second one here (Related works, no. 6).

In DPG168, as in many of his windmill scenes – most notably in the famous Mill at Wijk bij Duurstede, with yet another type of mill (Related works, no. 8) [4] – Ruisdael adopts a low viewpoint, magnifying the mills so that they dominate the landscape, and silhouetting them against a dramatic sky. Slive has commented that the handling and overall composition are similar to Ruisdael’s Windmill near a River and the Ruins of Egmond Abbey and the Buurkerk at Egmond-Binnen (Related works, no. 7), which shows an eight-sided mill.23 Here, however, unlike those two pictures, brilliant sunlight breaks through to illuminate a sliver of the landscape, monumentalizing an everyday scene. In this monumentality and drama Ruisdael departed from his early models, his uncle Salomon van Ruysdael (c. 1600/1603–70) and Jan van Goyen (1596–1656).

DPG168 shows a landscape where windmills turn and people work. The choice of what is essentially an industrial landscape as a subject for painting is one of Ruisdael’s most important legacies, leading to Romanticism and its various 19th- and 20th-century descendants. As with all his works, it is difficult to decide whether the artist intended his picture to have an allegorical or symbolic meaning.24 Windmills were very common in the Netherlands at the time – for grinding grain, for keeping water out of the polders, and for water management in general. They were often depicted in prints,25 such as the Amstel Gesichjes, six picturesque views of the river Amstel by Abraham Bloteling after Jacob van Ruisdael probably made for tourists: in three of these prints mills feature prominently, especially in the frontispiece (Related works, no. 9) [5]. Today the windmill is an icon of the Netherlands, but in the 16th century windmills came to be given a wide range of meanings: as an icon of modern technology, as a symbol of the mind, of the fortune of man, of the evil world, or, in a more specifically Christian context, of the Eucharist and Redemption.26 As Seymour Slive has repeatedly pointed out, however, given the objects featured in Ruisdael’s paintings, almost any composition could be interpreted as symbolic. In the case of DPG168, it is perhaps best to say that while some of Ruisdael’s contemporaries may have seen symbolism in it, others may not.

Given its dramatic nature it is not surprising that the picture should have attracted the attention of John Constable, who painted a copy in 1831 (Related works, no. 11) [6]. Constable visited the Gallery on 30 July 1830 with five other Royal Academicians, and chose the Ruisdael and five other paintings to copy in the Royal Academy school. He had long been interested in Ruisdael, writing in a letter of 4 February 1799 that ‘I shall begin painting as soon as I have the loan of a sweet little picture by Jacob Ruysdael to copy’.27 Constable’s copy bears an inscription under a label that reads ‘… by John Constable RA f. 1831 from the original painting by J. Ruysdael in the Dulwich Gallery’. Desenfans and Bourgeois had assembled their collection precisely to enable such copying. In Constable’s day the windmill had become an icon of an almost vanished golden age, whereas in Ruisdael’s time it was a vital source of Dutch prosperity.

Parts of DPG168 had been overpainted, perhaps by Bourgeois. The overpainting was removed in 1996 (see Technical Notes), but the figures can still be seen in the Constable copy and in the print by Ralph Cockburn (1779–1820) [7].28

Jacob van Ruisdael
Landscape with windmills near Haarlem, c. 1655
panel (oak), oil paint 31,5 x 33,9 cm
Dulwich (London), Dulwich Picture Gallery, inv./cat.nr. DPG168

Jacob van Ruisdael
Extensive Landscape with a View of Haarlem from the North-West (Overveen), c. 1665-1675
paper, black chalk, grey wash 92 x 151 mm
Amsterdam, Rijksprentenkabinet, inv./cat.nr. RP-T-1961-43

Dirk Eversen Lons
Leather-mill, 1614-1631
paper, engraving 205 (trimmed) x 168 mm
London (England), British Museum, inv./cat.nr. 1868,0612.310

Jacob van Ruisdael
Landscape with a windmill, dated 1646
panel, oil paint 49,5 x 68,5 cm
lower right : JvR 1646
Cleveland (Ohio), The Cleveland Museum of Art, inv./cat.nr. 67.19

Jacob van Ruisdael
Landscape with the mill near Wijk bij Duurstede, c. 1670
canvas, oil paint 83 x 101 cm
lower right : JvRuisdael
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, inv./cat.nr. SK-C-211

Abraham Bloteling after Jacob van Ruisdael
View of the Hogesluis from the Utrecht side, 1663 - 1692
paper, etching 165 x 216 mm
Amsterdam, Rijksprentenkabinet, inv./cat.nr. RP-P-1921-425

John Constable
Landscape with Windmills near Haarlem, dated 1831
panel, oil paint 31,6 x 34 cm
in verso : copied by John Constable R.A. feb. 1831 from the original picture by J. Ruysdael in the Dulwich Gallery
Dulwich (London), Dulwich Picture Gallery, inv./cat.nr. DPG657

Ralph Cockburn after Jacob van Ruisdael
Landscape, with a windmill, 1816-1820
paper, aquatint 130 x 181 mm
Dulwich (London), Dulwich Picture Gallery


1 ‘RUYSDAEL. Landscape, with two Windmills. A charming, pleasing composition.’

2 ‘There are five pictures by Ruysdael in this collection, and […] Among those […] 145 [DPG105] is a good specimen of his exquisite skill in depicting a waterfall; and 159 [DPG168] is very rich, natural, and fine.’ Of the five pictures that were called Ruisdael at the time, two are still Ruisdaels (DPG168 and DPG105); the others are now Decker (DPG349), Van Kessel (DPG210) and Woodburn (DPG150); Decker and Van Kessel are in this catalogue; for Woodburn, see Ingamells 2008, p. 124.

3 ‘Nothing can be better, in its way, than this rich, spirited, and unaffected work. It is “the truth, and nothing but the truth;” which can scarcely be said of the works of any other landscape painter whatever, except Hobbima. If we do not find here the glowing gracefulness of Both, the mysterious beauty of Cuyp, or the ideal perfection of Claude, we have in their place the freshness, the vigour, and the spirit of Nature herself.’

4 ‘Very simple in its motive, but very solemn and of great poetical charm. The horse in the foreground has been re-painted, probably by the artist himself.’

5 no. 241 […] au fond Harlem et le clocher de Saint-Bavon; œuvre de jeunesse d’une facture encore un peu gauche; les personnages et le cheval au premier plan sont probablement peints par le maître lui-même (no. 241 […] in the background Haarlem and the tower of St Bavo; an early work, still a bit clumsy; the figures and the horse in the foreground probably painted by the master himself).

6 Murray 1980a, p. 117: ‘The church in the background is the Groote Kerk at Haarlem. Underneath the rider there are traces of a man leading a horse, but the change was probably made by the artist. There is a copy of the painting by Constable […] which may be the one he refers to in a letter of 4 February 1799 […] If so, the picture was in England by 1799. It is an early work, c. 1650/52.’

7 ‘A pentiment shows traces of a man leading a horse under the falconer on horseback.’

8 RKD, no. 297697: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/297697 (June 27, 2020); see also http://hdl.handle.net/10934/RM0001.collect.59778 (May 6, 2020); Leeflang 1998, pp. 98–100, fig. 49.

9 Leeflang 1998, pp. 76–7, fig. 28; Giltaij 1988, pp. 78–9, no. 21; Slive 1965, ii, fig. 249.

10 RKD, no. 297698: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/297698 (June 27, 2020); see also https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/P_1868-0612-310 (May 6, 2020); Kettering 2007–8, pp. 70–71 (fig. 3 for the four prints); Muller 1863–82, iv (1882), p. 172, no. 1545B/1 (Popular culture, c. 1625).

11 RKD, no. 248226: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/248226 (June 13, 2017); Slive 2005, pp. 40–41, no. 2; Slive 2001, pp. 145–6, no. 127.

12 Slive & Hoetink 1981, fig. 60; Giltaij 1980, pp. 147, 193, no. 43.

13 Giltaij 1980, pp. 166, 171 (fig. 39), p. 192, no. 29.

14 Slive 2001, p. 149, no. 132.

15 RKD, no. 51490: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/51490 (June 13, 2017); Slive 2005, pp. 122–4, no. 39; Bergvelt, Filedt Kok & Middelkoop 2004, pp. 89, pl. 30 (N. Middelkoop); Pollmer 2004, pp. 171–2, no. 151; Slive 2001, pp. 108–10, no. 81; Chong 1987d.

16 RKD, no. 297701: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/297701 (June 27, 2020); see also http://hdl.handle.net/10934/RM0001.collect.82181 (May 6, 2020). See also Jacob van Ruisdael, Panoramic View on the Amstel looking towards Amsterdam, canvas, 52.1 x 66.1 cm, in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, PDP 74: http://data.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/id/object/1895 (May 14, 2013). There, however, the mills are just accents in the overall view, while in Bloteling’s print they dominate the townscape.

17 Size given in letter, 12 Jan. 1981 (DPG168 file).

18 RKD, no. 285221: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/285221 (April 24, 2018); Plomp 2020, pp. 55–6, fig. 48, Ram 2020, p. 171, no. 74; Slive 2011, pp. 19–20 (fig. 14); Dejardin 2009b, pp. 72–3, Ingamells 2008, pp. 232–3, DPG657; Slive 2001, p. 698; Reynolds 1984, p. 242, under no. 32.44.

19 RKD, no. 284873: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/284873 (June 20, 2017).

20 Email from Pieter Biesboer to Ellinoor Bergvelt, 23 May 2013 (DPG168 file): De twee molens liggen aan de rand van wat lage zandduinen en in de voorgrond loopt een afwateringskreek. Daarachter begint een stuk veenland en daarachter zie je de toppen van de bomen van de Haarlemmerhout en vervolgens de Grote of St Bavokerk en de toren van de Bakenesserkerk. Het gezicht is vanuit het zuidoosten. Bij de molens, die de waterhuishouding van het veengebied moesten regelen, liggen grote stapels rijshout, dat gebruikt werd voor de blekerijen om de loogvaten te stoken. Ten noorden van Heemstede lagen een flink aantal kleerblekerijen waar het linnen van de Haarlemse en Amsterdamse huishoudens werd gebleekt. Op de plattegrond van Floris van Berckenrode zie je de situatie van het veengebied en de lage zandduinen die daar aan grensden. Je ziet ook hoeveel afwateringsloten en -kreken in dat gebied liepen, waarvan de waterstand door molens gecontroleerd moest worden.’ For abridged translation see main text.

21 Kettering 2007–8, especially p. 78.

22 For the two types of mills depicted – a thatched grondzeiler and an eight-sided grondzeiler – see Endedijk 1998, pp. 20–21. For surviving windmills in the province of North Holland dating from the 16th to the 20th century, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_windmills_in_North_Holland (May 6, 2020).

23 27 See Slive 2001, p. 149, no. 132.

24 See for a useful overview of the recent discussions Bakker 2004, pp. 262–98.

25 Kettering (2007–8, p. 80) distinguishes three types in Netherlandish prints: panoramic landscapes, localized country scenes, and townscapes with mills looming over the city walls.

26 For a summary of the symbolic meanings of the windmill see Chong 1987d, also Kettering 2007–8.

27 Leslie 1951/1845, p. 8.

28 Mark Evans has suggested that if the additions were indeed by Bourgeois, he might have been influenced by the figure types found in the Cuyps in his own collection.

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