Jacob van Ruisdael was a Dutch painter, etcher, and draughtsman. He is often regarded as a pivotal landscape artist that would greatly influence the upcoming Dutch Golden Age. The artist was both versatile and prolific, depicting a wide variety of landscapes, ranging from countrysides to harbors. A key element of his artwork is his keen attention to rendering the sky, often taking up to two-thirds of the composition.
Jacob van Issackszoon van Ruisdael was born in Haarlem, Netherlands, circa 1629. The artist was born into a family of painters, which were all landscapists, which proved to be a fertile ground for Jacob’s future artwork. The vast number of painters in the family, allied with the multiple spellings of Ruisdael, have hindered the progress to both documents his life and attribute his works.
Therefore, there is not much documentation on Jacob’s apprenticeship. Still, it is assumed that his studies were under both his father and uncle, Isaack van Ruisdael and Salomon van Ruysdael, respectively. Ruisdael’s would also be strongly influenced by other contemporary Haarlem landscapists, such as Allaert van Everdingen and Cornelis Vroom. The earliest date on Ruisdael’s etchings and paintings in 1646, two years later, he became a member of the Haarlem’s Guild of St. Luke.
Around 1657, Ruisdael would move to Amsterdam to access a broader and richer market since by then, Amsterdam was already a prosperous city in a time that landscape painting was becoming increasingly popular.
Although a landscape painter, Ruisdael didn’t appear to be the most assiduous traveler, moving mostly inside the Netherlands and just across the German border. Despite his several depictions of Norwegian landscapes, there’s no record of Ruisdael being in Scandinavia.
According to an art historian, Ruisdael did not marry, to reserve time to look after his old father. His paintings would be valued reasonably high until the end of his life, allowing him to live comfortably. Jacob van Ruisdael died in Amsterdam in March 1682. His work would prepare the foundation and shape landscape painting tradition worldwide, from the Barbizon School in France to the English Romantics and United States’ Hudson River School, besides obviously, generations of Dutch landscape painters to come.
Today, van Ruisdael’s artworks are present in several distinguished art collections and museums, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, and the National Gallery in London.