Monday, February 20, 2006

dutch masters

You're aware by my previous posts that I have been looking at a variety of art books about the Hudson River School. The beauty of these masterful American artworks helped to inspire me in my difficult days at the hospital. Art has been a great outlet for me. Sometimes I'd visualize one of these paintings while blood was being drawn in order to feel more relaxed and it worked always. At least one of the books that I read mentioned the influence of Dutch landscape paintings on the American landscape tradition. Why I had forgotten about the Dutch, I don't know, but it's true that their 17th century landscape (as well as the portraiture and still life of Vermeer and other Dutch masters) art is remarkable. The foci of Dutch landscape art is different than its 19th century American counterpart, but its power is intense nonetheless. So having been reminded of the great Dutch landscape tradition (which I studied in college briefly), I searched online a bit for copies of landscape art by Jacob van Ruisdael, the great Dutch master. I'm glad that I was reminded of van Ruisdael's work. I must explore it again, because it's marvelous. The mood of his Northern European scenes are more glum and eerie than the works of Cole, Bierstadt, and Church which are full of the hopeful themes of a growing, progressive, and blessed America. Van Ruisdael, however, looks at the omnipotence of nature and man's insignificance in its shadow. The clever technique by which he created a vast and broad sky that encompassed more than half of his paintings' surfaces helped to hit this point home. Man is so small before Nature. Humility and terror are equal effects, I think, of van Ruisdael's paintings. Here are some examples of van Ruisdael's work:


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