barber institute of fine arts
university of birmingham

‘A Cavalry Travelling through a Wooded Landscape’ by Salomon van Ruysdael

A Dutch landscape painting never before publicly displayed has been acquired for the nation and allocated to the Barber collections via the Acceptance in Lieu scheme.

‘A Cavalry Travelling through a Wooded Landscape’ by Salomon van Ruysdael (about 1600-3 – 1670), one of the pioneering painters of naturalistic landscapes in Holland during the 17th century, is now on display in the Red Gallery.

Ruysdael was a prominent painter of the Dutch Golden Age, and one of its pre-eminent exponents of landscapes. Frequently his work depicts a large body of water – whether a river, lake, or the sea – with vast mirrored skies. JMW Turner was among those inspired and influenced by Ruysdael’s expansive natural scenes.

He was born around 1600-3, in Naarden, Holland, before moving to Haarlem. By the 1620s he was painting landscapes, and by the 1630s was an important emerging artist in the ‘tonal’ style, characterised by subdued colours and modest subject matter, that became the hallmark of early Dutch realism. It was not until later in his career that he would turn to the increasingly bright and monumental ‘classical’ style. He was a member of the painters’ guild of Haarlem, and traded dyes as a merchant.

‘A Cavalry Travelling through a Wooded Landscape’ dates to 1653, when Ruysdael had begun to shift from his ‘tonal’ style, in the vein of Pieter Molijn (1595 – 1661) and Jan van Goyen (1596-1656), to his later ‘classicising’ paintings. His famous nephew, Jacob van Ruisdael, was later to become the superlative practitioner of this style.

The change can be seen in the picture: the horizon is lower forcing the sky into greater prominence, and the composition has a central focus. A limited palette means the brightest colours – such as the orange of the cavalry’s clothing – are emphasised. Ruysdael’s expressive composition contrasts monumental trees bent by the wind, with a zigzagging pathway traversed by a cavalry train.

The Barber already has in its collection Molijn’s ‘A Landscape with a Huntsman’ (c.1640s) and van Goyen’s ‘Cottages in a Landscape with a Well’ (1631), which will serve as excellent predecessors to the more mature Ruysdael painting.  Jacob van Ruisdael’s contemporary ‘A Woodland Landscape’, early 1650s, shows the influence of Salomon’s work – both paintings include a small pool surrounded by numerous large trees.

Director Nicola Kalinsky said: “This is a superb example by an artist not otherwise represented at the Barber, where it will now be displayed alongside other significant landscapes from the period, including one by his nephew, Jacob. This ability of our Birmingham gallery to represent the full range and achievement of this great moment of Western art is enormously enhanced by this generous allocation, and we are extremely grateful.

“In recent years, Ruysdael’s work has surprisingly been neglected by scholars, which is in stark contrast to his continued popularity on the art market. Thanks to this Acceptance in Lieu there is now plenty of scope for new research into this painting, which has not previously featured in published academic works or been displayed in public.”

Michael Ellis, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Arts, Heritage and Tourism said: “This is a wonderful acquisition for the Barber Institute and the city of Birmingham. It is great news that this important work has been saved for the nation thanks to the Acceptance in Lieu scheme.”

Edward Harley OBE, Chairman, Acceptance in Lieu Panel said: “I am thrilled that the Acceptance in Lieu scheme has enabled this work to be acquired on behalf of the public for display alongside other treasures at the Barber Institute.”



Jan van Goyen (1596-1656)

A Village Scene


Nicolaes Maes (1634-1693)

Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath


Lambert Doomer (1622/3-1700)

Rock Dwellings at Saumur on the Loire


Antoon Derkzen van Angeren (1878-1961)

Two Skulls