Collection Online

The watermill
(c. 1660)

oil on canvas
63.3 × 68.7 cm (image) 64.7 × 70.8 cm (canvas)
inscribed in black paint l.l.: JvR (monogram)
Accession Number
International Painting
Credit Line
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Felton Bequest, 1922
© Public Domain
This digital record has been made available on NGV Collection Online through the generous support of Digitisation Champion Ms Carol Grigor through Metal Manufactures Limited
Gallery location
17th Century & Flemish Paintings Gallery
Level 2, NGV International

Jacob van Ruisdael is often regarded as the finest Dutch landscape artist of the seventeenth century, and as one of the most influential Dutch artists internationally at that time. Unlike many artists, he did not specialise in a particular landscape type, but painted a wide variety of subjects – including seascapes, townscapes and winter scenes – with equal passion and virtuosity. Instead of painting idyllic landscapes, Ruisdael charged his subjects with strong spiritual and moralising content. His best works combine high drama with a degree of realism, which makes his scenes appear familiar and believable.

Ruisdael was widely travelled in his own country and elsewhere in northern Europe, and the sights he saw fuelled his imagination. Such is the case with The watermill, the model for which has been identified as a type of mill used in the Veluwe region of the Netherlands, near Apeldoorn. The existence of a drawing by Ruisdael (Teylers Museum, Haarlem), also datable to c. 1660 and depicting the mill seen in the National Gallery of Victoria’s painting, indicates that the artist sketched his subject in situ and then later juxtaposed it against a dramatically stormy sky. Ruisdael’s compositions often included manmade structures as symbols of the impact of humanity on nature. In some paintings, however, the situation is reversed, as the artist shows ruins being completely overwhelmed by nature. The dilapidated state of this mill, and the way the vegetation is encroaching, suggest that nature will resist any attempt to control it.