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Art & Design

The Ferry Boat, 1645, Museum Appropriation Fund

gallery location RA504.European2

The Ferry Boat

Salomon van Ruysdael Dutch, ca. 1602-1670
The Ferry Boat, 1645
Oil on canvas
97.2 x 144.2 cm (38 1/4 x 56 3/4 inches)
Museum Appropriation Fund 33.204

A low horizon, watery foreground, and cluster of structures on a riverbank are typical of van Ruysdael’s limpid compositions. He used thin washes of paint on a light ground to record the landscape and waterways around Haarlem, where he lived, and from his travels throughout the Netherlands. Fine draftsmanship and acute observation of nature characterized his rendering of the leafy foliage in the trees that animate this river scene. Here the body of water leads to the horizon, while the ferryboat plays the dual role of balancing the composition with the cluster of trees at the right and adding information about everyday life in Holland. By the 1640s, the artist commanded a vocabulary of natural effects and genre elements which, in the absence of preserved sketchbooks, he seems to have reproduced from habit and from memory. The grey tonality, placement of boats, and the inclusion of a church spire in this painting subtly distinguish it from other works from this period, including a closely related River Landscape in the collection of the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid.

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