The University Record, November 6, 2000

Photo stories: Museum acquires van Ruysdael painting

The Museum of Art has acquired a 17th-century Dutch painting, a river landscape by Salomon van Ruysdael (ca. 1600–1670). The painting, a river landscape titled ‘View of the Fortifications at Gennep on the Maas River,’ was created in 1665 and represents the most important addition in half a decade to the Museum’s old master holdings. The painting was purchased in honor of the 94th birthday of former Museum of Art Director Charles Sawyer, who ran the Museum in 1957–72. The purchase was made possible by the W. Hawkins Ferry Fund.

‘This is a marvelous addition to the Museum’s collection that also fills a gap—namely, that we did not have a first-rate, 17th-century Dutch landscape,’ says Museum Director James Steward. ‘We are lucky to have been able to find it on the private market, especially as it comes to us directly out of a private collection in England. Further, in the near term it will have wonderful company in the companion painting we have on loan from the Detroit Institute of Arts—a landscape by Jacob van Ruysdael, Salomon’s uncle. I am extremely pleased that we are able to honor Charlie Sawyer in this way. Not only has he been one of the most important shaping forces in the history of this museum, but he has been a friend and adviser to me since my arrival in Ann Arbor two years ago. His perspectives are invaluable.’

The Haarlem painter Salomon van Ruysdael is best known for his panoramic river views, a popular landscape type that he produced widely during the last two decades of his distinguished career. All of the key elements of the river landscape can be found in ‘View of Gennep’—a rustic ferry boat weighted down with passengers and cow, crenellated battlements, luminous clouds, a broad expanse of water and bright accents of color. The painting very likely alludes to the Eighty Years’ War between the Netherlands and Spain and probably celebrates the town of Gennep’s recapture by the Dutch in 1641.

Sawyer states that he is ‘deeply touched by the honor that the Museum is bestowing on me.’ The painting is a fitting tribute to Sawyer, who has been a lifelong student of the 17th-century Dutch landscape tradition. The painting has been installed in the Margaret Watson Parker Gallery. Photo courtesy Museum of Art