The present painting is an example of Ruisdael’s early works, painted when he was just a teenager of seventeen or eighteen years old. Seymour Slive dates this work to before 1646, based on stylistic comparison and the fact that Ruisdael only started dating his works in 1646.
In a black chalk drawing at the Bredius Museum (fig. 1), dateable to circa 1646, the chief motif of the hollow-post wind-mill (wipmolen) is identical to that of the current painting. Besides the curious fact that in both cases only three sails are depicted, the quick sketch done on the spot after nature also has an identical disposition of all the shadows, decided twist of its sails and fence and cottages on the left (making it one of Ruisdael’s scarce preparatory drawings). However, in the painting the artist gave the mill a village setting by substituting a church for the second windmill, introducing a conspicuous old oak tree and a solitary traveller with his dog. The concentration of light and dark contrasts add a rather dramatic effect to the scenery and shows the artist’s then already daring and original approach to landscape.
The brushwork, particularly in the mill and hefty oak, is consistent with Ruisdael’s youthful handling thus, according to Seymour Slive, ruling out the possibility that the picture is a copy by another hand. According to Slive the present work also predates Cleveland’s more dramatic Landscape with a windmill (fig. 2), one of Ruisdael’s first fully signed and dated works of 1646, and predates a dozen other works Ruisdael dated 1646 (the year the artist first began both to date and sign his paintings, etchings and drawings).
– George Ozbach, who sold it to the dealer Eugene Bolton, circa 1910-1920;
– Anon. Sale London, Christie’s Dec. 1983, lot 152 as ‘circle of’ and ‘traces of signature’ (l.r.);
– Art Dealers De Boer and Douwes, Amsterdam 1991;
– Private collection Hans Wertitsch, Vienna 1993-96;
– from a private Dutch collection;
– Douwes Fine Art, London;
– private collection, Switzerland.
Literature and expertise
– Seymour Slive, ‘Addtitions to Jacob van Ruisdael’ in The Burlington magazine, September 1991, pp. 598-599, with illustration;
– Seymour Slive, Jacob van Ruisdael. A Complete Catalogue of his Paintings, Drawings and Etchings, London 2001, p. 150, cat.no. 134 (ill.).
– Seymour Slive, Jacob van Ruisdael: windmills and water mills, Los Angeles 2011;
– Seymour Slive, Jacob van Ruisdael: master of landscape, New Haven 2005.