Jacob Van Ruisdael and the Perception of Landscape

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9780300049947: Jacob Van Ruisdael and the Perception of Landscape

Jacob van Ruisdael is one of the greatest of the Dutch landscape artists of the 17th century. This provides an overview of the artist's work and critical reception and offers as well a contribution to the discussion of issues of representation and meaning in landscape painting. The author considers Ruisdael's artistic and thematic development, paying special attention to the sources of his imagery in both nature and artistic tradition and to the influence of the wider cultural context on the artist's conception and transformation of his subject. Examining Ruisdael's works, Walford discusses various aspects of the painter's artistry: his themes and motifs, his selection, combination, and representation of particular elements of the landscape; his scrupulous observation of the details of indigenous vegetation and of the massing of clouds; and his understanding of the conflicting forces of growth and inevitable dissolution in nature. Walford shows how Ruisdael's scenes of forests, villages, and country roads evoke a serene image of the vigor, grandeur, and ultimate transience of nature. Ruisdael's best works, says Walford, display a grandeur of conception and a brilliance of execution that captivate the eye and arouse the contemplative imagination.

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Walford's excellent study of the great 17th-century Dutch landscape painter van Ruisdael is neither the traditional romantic evocation of his imagined personality and allegedly emotionally charged works nor an attempt to ascribe precise emblematic meanings to the elements of his paintings. Instead, the author aims to consider the artist's selectively naturalistic views as a more general embodiment of contemporary views about God's creation. From this compelling thesis, van Ruisdael's landscapes emerge not only as objects of religious contemplation and bearers of a sacred significance but also as thoughtfully contrived aesthetic objects reflecting the master's apprehension of both nature and earlier and contemporary practitioners of his genre. The masterful reconstruction of the painter's career in terms of thematic concerns, stylistic development, and individual works is also insightfully and elegantly articulated. Alas, the uneven quality of the color reproductions and murky black-and-white illustrations ill serve this fundamental contribution to the understanding of Dutch art. For specialized collections.
- Robert Cahn, Fashion Inst. of Technology, New York
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Walford, E. John
Published by Yale University Press, New Haven and London (1991)
ISBN 10: 0300049943 ISBN 13: 9780300049947
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