A Landscape with Horsemen and Travellers before a Country Inn
Salomon van Ruysdael
Signed and dated, lower centre: S. VRUYSDAEL/ 1644
On panel, 25¼ x 38? (64 x 95.7 cm)
H. Houck, Deventer
Sale, Roos, Amsterdam, 7 May 1895, lot 137 (1,125 florins to Preyer)
W. E. Biscoe, Holton Park, Oxfordshire
Sale, Christie’s, London, 20 June 1896, lot 142 (140 gns. to Sedelmeyer)
With Charles Sedelmeyer, Paris, The fourth series of 100 paintings by Old Masters belonging to the Sedelmeyer family, Paris, 1897, no. 38
Sauerbach collection, Paris, from which confiscated by the Nazi authorities, May 1941
Appropriated for the collection of Hermann Goering, Karinhall and Berlin (inv. no. 890), until recovered by allied forces in 1945 and returned to the French authorities (nos. 11356 and 667, 17th shipment from Munich on 25 March 1947)
Restituted to the Sauerbach family on 18 April 1947
Anonymous sale, Drouot, Paris, 8 December 1948, lot 48 (1,600,000 francs to the father of the next owner)
René Smadja, Paris, 2007, by whom sold at
Christie’s, London, 6 December 2007, lot 58
With Johnny Van Haeften Limited, London, 2007-08
Private collection, New York, 2008-2017
W. Stechow, Salomon van Ruysdael, Berlin, 1975, p. 90, no. 149.
On a sandy road, which sweeps across a windswept landscape, travellers with horse-drawn carts and carriages stand in little groups before a country inn. Seated in the shadows of the foreground, a couple with a dog rests by the roadside, while hens peck in the dust and cows roam nearby. Further along the road in the middle distance, a rider and a covered wagon make their way in the direction of a large church, which announces the proximity of a neighbouring town. Grey clouds billow upwards in a lofty sky and a cool wind ruffles the foliage of the trees.
In this painting from Salomon van Ruysdael’s mid-career, he depicts one of his favourite landscape themes. Stechow catalogued nearly twenty dated paintings of the halt before the inn, ranging in date from 1635 to 1667 (i). The kernel of the idea emerged around 1631 in his earliest paintings of dunes with travellers stopped before buildings on a country road, such as his Road in the Dunes with a Passenger Coach (ii), in the Szépmuvészeti Muzeum in Budapest or Dune Landscape with Farmhouse and Wagon (iii), in Berlin. These already display the basic elements of design that utilise a diagonal composition to suggest spatial depth, which he subsequently varied and refined throughout his career.
In the early 1640s, the halt before the inn assumed a new importance in Ruysdael’s work as he treated fewer watery subjects, turning instead to scenes on dry land. In the present painting, a road retreats gently from right to left towards a low horizon. A truncated tree and wedge-shaped band of foreground shadow act as repoussoirs concentrating the eye on the luminous middle zone of the painting and assisting the spatial recession. The vertical motifs of the church steeple and the clump of trees that rises up majestically to the left of centre provide a counterbalance to the horizontal features of the landscape. With this simple scheme, Ruysdael admirably conveys a sense of the flat terrain and expansive skies of his native countryside. A similarly conceived painting of the same subject, albeit larger and more fully resolved, is in the Norton Simon Museum of Art in Pasadena (iv).
A Landscape with Horsemen and Travellers before a Country Inn is characteristic of a small but coherent group of landscapes, painted in the early 1640s, which adheres to a late form of ‘tonalism’ and displays a remarkably direct and spontaneous handling. Here, the palette confined almost entirely to tones of golden brown and olive green, describes the landscape’s terrestrial features, while cool greys and blues define the sky. This carefully controlled colour scheme is enlivened with touches of red and accents of white, which draw the eye to the brightly lit horse and cart in the centre of the composition. The evidently rapid execution and vibrancy of Ruysdael’s brushstrokes reinforce the suggestion of immediacy. For other landscapes executed in much the same style, see his painting A sandy landscape with travellers on foot (v) of 1642 and An extensive landscape with figures and horsemen resting near an inn (vi), painted the following year.
In the period which followed these late ‘tonal’ works, Ruysdael gradually adopted a brighter palette, viewed in a clearer light. His mature style, which emerged from around 1645, is characterised by sharper tonal contrasts, greater definition of detail and more varied colour. At the same time, his landscapes assumed a certain grandeur, reflecting the more classical style of the younger generation of Dutch landscapists.
Salomon Jacobsz. van Ruysdael was born in Naarden around 1600, the son of a cabinet maker from Gooiland, Jacob Jansz. de Goyer. Early in his life, Salomon used his father’s name but later he and his brother Isaack adopted the name Ruysdael, probably derived from Castle Ruijschadaal near their father’s home town. Despite the difference in spelling, it is the same family as the artist’s famous nephew, Jacob van Ruisdael. Shortly after his father’s death in 1616, Salomon and Isaack, who was also a painter, frame maker and art dealer, moved to Haarlem. He entered the city’s St. Luke’s Guild in 1623 and lived there for the rest of his life. His earliest known landscape is dated 1626 and he was praised as a landscape painter by as early as 1628 by Samuel van Ampzing (vii). In 1647 and 1669 he served as an officer of the St. Luke’s Guild and, in 1648, was made Dean. In 1651, Ruysdael was recorded as a merchant dealing in blue dye for Haarlem’s bleacheries. Although he lived most of his life in Haarlem, he appears to have travelled widely in The Netherlands and his paintings include views of Dordrecht, Utrecht, Arnhem, Alkmaar and Rhenen. He was buried in St. Bavo’s Church in Haarlem in 1670.
Although Ruysdael’s teacher is not known, his early works reveal the influence of Esaias van de Velde who was in Haarlem from 1609-1618. His early landscapes, distinguished by their modest subject matter and restricted palette, are characteristic of the new ‘tonal’ style of landscape painting in Haarlem, of which Ruysdael, Jan van Goyen (1596-1656) and Pieter de Molijn (1595-1661) were the principal exponents. His later landscapes are brighter in colour and more monumental in approach. Although he specialised in landscape painting, he also painted some seascapes and, towards the end of his life, a few still-lifes.
i W. Stechow, Salomon van Ruysdael: Eine Einführung in siene Kunst mit kritischem Katalog der
Gemälde, 1938, nos. 145-166.
ii Salomon van Ruysdael, Road in the dunes with a passenger coach, 1631, oil on panel, 56 x 86.4 cm,
Budapest, Szépm?vészeti Muzeum.
iii Salomon van Ruysdael, Dune Landscape with Farmhouse and Wagon, 1631, oil on panel,
68.5 x 105.5 cm, Berlin, Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz, no. 901C.
iv Salomon van Ruysdael, Halt before the Inn, signed and dated 1643, oil on canvas, 62 x 92 cm,
Pasadena, Norton Simon Museum of Art.
v Salomon van Ruysdael, A sandy landscape with travellers on foot and mounted, others resting, a
church in the distance, signed and dated 1642, on panel, 61 x 85.5 cm. Sotheby’s London, 8 July, 2004,
vi Salomon van Ruysdael, An extensive landscape with numerous figures and horsemen resting near an
inn, signed and dated 1643, on panel, 61 x 91.3 cm. Sotheby’s Amsterdam, 8 February, 1988, Lot. 84.
vii Samuel Ampzing, Beschrijving ende lof der stad Haerlem in Holland, Haarlem, 1628.
Salomon van Ruysdael
Naarden 1600/03 – 1670 Haarlem
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