Today, Jacob van Ruisdael is my featured artist in My Daily Art Display. He was born in Haarlem in 1628 and was brought up in an artistic household. His father, Isaak van Ruysdael and his uncle, Salomon van Ruysdael were both landscape painters. Little is known about Jacob’s early artistic training but it is thought that his father probably taught him with guidance from his uncle. At the age of twenty he was admitted as a member of the Guild of St Luke in Haarlem. The Guild of Saint Luke was the most common name for a city guild for painters and other artists especially in the Low Countries. They were named in honor of the Evangelist Luke, who was the patron saint of artists.
Unfortunately during his lifetime Jacob van Ruisdael’s artistic talent was not appreciated and by all accounts he led a poverty-stricken existence. At the age of fifty three the Haarlem council was petitioned for his admission into the town’s almshouse. He died in Amsterdam a year later in 1682 and his body was brought back to be buried in Haarlem
Jacob van Ruisdael travelled considerably during his lifetime but seldom went outside his own country. He was a prolific painter with over seven hundred paintings and a hundred drawings attributed to him. His great love was to paint countryside scenes showing fields of corn and windmills as well as woodland scenes. He was also a renowned painter of trees and their foliage. Another favourite subject of his was seascapes and the neighbouring dune lands. He also liked to paint waterfalls based on the work of Allart van Everdingen, the Dutch painter, who had travelled extensively in Scandinavia.
Today’s painting, The Dam Square in Amsterdam, completed in 1670 is neither a landscape nor a seascape. The subject is Dam Square in Amsterdam, a place which he was very familiar with as he lived on the south side of the square at this time. The square was dominated by the old Amsterdam municipal weighbridge and one can see several bales of goods under the canopy waiting to be weighed. On the right of the building one can see the Damark with its sailing boats and the tower of Oude Kerk. In the foreground of the painting there are a large number of figures. It is not thought that Ruisdael actually painted these as he was not an established figure specialist. Experts believe they may have been painted by the Rotterdam artist Gerard van Battem. The pale light from the left of the painting casting long shadows across the square suggests that it is daybreak.
His artistic works although not fully appreciated during his lifetime have since his death been highly praised and he is now often considered the greatest Dutch landscape painter of all time.