Cultured Wednesday: Dutch Golden Age Mills

Jacob van Ruisdael and Meindert Hobbema together represent the final development of Golden Age Dutch landscape art.

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Today, we would like to offer two water mill paintings for you enjoyment, by way of an introduction into landscape painting of the Dutch Golden Age (17th century ).  Most people these days are quite familiar with the portraits painted by Rembrandt and Vermeer, so we chose the pre-eminent landscape painter from the so-called classical phase (around 1650) of the Dutch Golden Age, Jacob van Ruisdael, and his pupil Meindert Hobbema for examples.

The Winter Landscape with a Watermill (c. 1660s) by Jacob van Ruisdael (1629 – 10 March 1682)
A Watermill (c. 1664) by Meindert Hobbema (October 1638 – December 7, 1709)

Grand landscapes they painted, these Dutch artists, as a mixture of the ordinary and the heroic speaks out of them.  People dwarfed by the elements and vegetation are going about their business, casually making use of nature for their daily necessities and decencies.  Houses and trees, beaten equally by wind and weather, have turned into characters that have a story to tell, if only you can understand their language.  Clouds higher than the highest mountains tower over the (very, very) flat land.  And almost always, somewhere in the foreground, you find broken logs lying around or floating by.

Paintings like this read like books if you are willing to take your time and listen to the landscape and the people tell their story.  And as with every good story, there are lessons for life hidden there, some more obvious than others, whether or not you are inclined to think of these paintings as allegorical.


Featured a crop of Ruisdael’s Windmill at Wijk bij Duurstede from 1670.

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