European
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Jacob van Ruisdael (Dutch, Haarlem, 1628/29–1682),
Landscape with Waterfall , 1665–75
oil on canvas, 38 ¾ x 53 in.; 98.43 x 134.62 cm
Museum Membership Fund Purchase, 1949.163

Contrasting with the classical landscape style, which offered idealized views of imaginary Italian scenery, Ruisdael represents the northern landscape tradition — his paintings construct convincing images of the wilder, less domesticated north European countryside. However, although seemingly more naturalistic, showing “real” Dutch trees, rivers, houses, and peasants, his compositions nonetheless depict imaginary rather than actual sites and follow pictorial formulas. Thus, Ruisdael’s waterfall pictures from the 1660s typically have a low viewpoint, a foreground filled with tumbled boulders and breaking water, small figures pushed into the background, and a foreboding mood created by the somber, almost monochromatic tonality.

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