The Native Tourist
reformed/biblical observations on Christianity and culture

Tuesday, November 01, 2005
This comes from the review of the Ruisdael exhibition which is now in Philadelphia (from the Inquirer):

His paintings aren't concerned with religious belief - the 17th-century Dutch masters were doggedly secular - but in the Art Museum show he comes across as a confirmed pantheist.

This reporter needs to do his homework. The "secular" works produced by the Dutch masters had everything to do with their Christian understanding of the world, even thought they weren't about saints, biblical subjects, or doctine per se. They saw real value and spiritual meaning in ALL of reality. And they enjoyed it to the full.

It was exactly this embrace of reality in the full that allowed Ruisdael and his fellow landscape brethren to take joy in the creation that was their home. The review in the New York Times captures this beautifully:

That his landscapes are grand is remarkable, given the material he was working with. England had its Windermere, America its Rockies. Holland had duney flatness, with the occasional steeple poking up. But Ruisdael found this sufficient for starters: he painted what was in front of him and invented what was not.

He took full advantage of his country's greatest scenic resource: sky. It usually takes up at least half of any Ruisdael painting. It was Holland's Himalayas, awesome, many-hued, dominating all.

This is not to say that Ruisdael was a slavish follower of this reality - a pure realist. Rather, like a farmer or a gardener he embellished the original.