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Landscape with Windmills near Haarlem, after Jacob van Ruisdael

The British artist John Constable (1776-1837) pays homage to the Dutch landscape painter Jacob van Ruisdael (1629-82). A vast, overcast sky dominates the composition. The dramatic clouds are constructed with loose, textural brushstrokes, giving the impression that they are being buffeted by strong winds sweeping across the flat, Dutch landscape and turning the sails of the windmills below. The distant church on the horizon to the left has historically been identified as the Grote Kerk of the city of Haarlem, Netherlands.

Constable made frequent copies ('memoranda') of Ruisdael’s works. This painting is a copy of Ruisdael’s Landscape with Windmills near Haarlem in the Dulwich Picture Gallery collection. It was lent to the Royal Academy Schools in Pall Mall, London, to be copied by students of painting in 1830. On comparing the paintings today, Constable’s version differs in showing a boy walking besides a man with a red coat on horseback in the right foreground. These figures were first recorded in Ruisdael’s painting in 1835 and it is a reasonable assumption that they were there when Constable made his copy in 1830. In 1997 the boy, horse and rider in Ruisdael’s version were discovered to be later additions and were removed. The additions had perhaps been made by one of the Gallery's founders, Francis Bourgeois (1753-1811), who – as an artist – was sometimes known to ‘improve’ the works he acquired according to the fashions of the period.

Currently on display

John Constable
Gallery 5
31.6 x 34 cm
Oil on oak panel
Given to the Gallery anonymously in memory of Bill and Anita Greenoff, 2006
Accession number