The Detroit Institute of Arts/ Public Domain. Gift of Julius H. Haass in memory of his brother Dr. Ernest W. Haass

The Jewish Cemetery

Jacob van Ruisdael, ca. 1654 — 1655
The Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit

Jacob van Ruisdael is considered to be the most important master of Dutch landscape painting, and this is one of his largest and most impressive paintings. Ruisdael’s trademark style includes the skies with turbulent clouds and dramatic lighting that, for no apparent reason, picks out certain parts of the composition. Here, it highlights one of the marble tombs in the center and the tree trunk to the right, while adjacent areas of the scene lie in deep shadow. The view is of a graveyard stretching from the front into the middle ground. In spite of the tombs showing Hebrew inscriptions, the ruins sitting squarely in the middle of the composition seem to be of a Christian church. The painting is remarkable for its effect of immediately carrying the beholder off into a world that seems to be full of meaning. Ruins, tombs and the broken tree in the front gloomily resonate with the troubled sky. They are contrasted on the left by a rainbow, a symbol of hope.

Gero Seelig, Curator, Staatliches Museum Schwerin, Schwerin

Explore more

High resolution image

See the smallest details

View on Google Arts & Culture

Art Projector

See how the artwork looks in real size in front of you

View on Google Arts & Culture