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Still life of fruit and a pie on a table

The Royal Collection has a stunning collection of seventeenth century Dutch art

Jacob van Ruisdael (Haarlem c.1628-Amsterdam 1682)

Evening Landscape: a Windmill by a Stream c.1650

RCIN 405538

Picture Gallery, Buckingham Palace

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In 1821, when John Constable saw Evening Landscape on display at the Royal Academy, his friend David Lucas, a printmaker, recorded that he particularly admired the ‘acres of sky expressed’. This vast expanse of sky dominates the composition, with its ominous clouds rolling over the carefully constructed scene below. The location has not been identified. It may be a specific place, but it is more likely to be an idealised landscape constructed from sketches and studies Ruisdael would have made around Haarlem.

Here, he has perfected his ability to create dramatic visual tension, the heavy clouds imbuing the scene with character and emotion. The question remains whether the image has a moral or religious meaning. The scene certainly reflects mankind’s dependence upon nature, but the main message lies in the prominence of the windmill – an enduring symbol of the Dutch Republic which played a significant role in the new country’s industry and resulting wealth.