Object Image

An Extensive Landscape with Ruins

A grey, turbulent sky dominates the scene, but our eye is also caught by a patch of light in the fields: the sun has broken through a crack in the clouds.

This sense of fast-changing light brings the whole landscape to life, injecting movement into what otherwise might have been a static scene. This effect helps make it feel as though van Ruisdael has captured a real moment in a real place, but it's more likely that he was depicting an idealised landscape. He was reflecting an idea that he and his customers had about how Holland should look, and - crucially - the importance of the church.

The tower and spire are central to the picture, tall and resilient against an impending storm - a source of strength when times get rough. Other strongholds, like the ruined medieval castle in the foreground, slowly crumble.

Credit: Salting Bequest, 1910

probably 1665-75
Oil on canvas
34.0 x 40.0cm
Image and text © The National Gallery, London, 2024

Where you'll find this

National Gallery