RUISDAEL, Jacob Isaackszon van
(b. ca. 1628, Haarlem, d. 1682, Amsterdam)

The Marsh in a Forest

c. 1665
Oil on canvas, 73 x 99 cm
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg

Among Ruisdael's most personal creations are his large forest scenes of the sixties. In the Marsh in a Forest of about 1665 at the Hermitage powerful trees form a mighty group around a lonely pond. The decayed ones speak with their winding branches as vividly as those in full growth. There is more spaciousness now than there was in the earlier phase of the fifties. Massive trees no longer virtually seal off middle and background vistas. One can look into the distance under the trees, and the sky plays a more pronounced role. There is air all round, and the local colour, which was very distinct in the bluish green of the fifties, is somewhat neutralized by a greyish tint in the bronze-brown foliage.

In this particular picture Jacob van Ruisdael based his composition on a design of Roelandt Savery which was accessible through the engraving of Egidius Sadeler. Yet the transformation of the Mannerist's work into his heroic terms is more significant than the dependence on it. Ruisdael did not accept the bizarre and ornamental play with nature's forms. He created an archetype of the splendour and grandeur of nature.