Muted Tranquility over the North Sea

Something a little different today. I’m a sucker for Dutch Golden Age landscapes and I rather like this one which is on display in the Kelvingrove Gallery in Glasgow. It’s by Jacob van Ruisdael and depicts the village of Egmond aan Zee, looking out over the North Sea:

File:Jacob van Ruisdael - A View of Egmond aan Zee - Kelvingrove Art Gallery.jpg

There are two main reasons I like this painting. The first is that when my newborn son was in intensive care in the Yorkhill Children’s Hospital, just over the road from the gallery, I would find a few moments of peacefulness in front of this scene from time to time. The second reason, which explains why I find it peaceful, is that it reminds me of growing up in house in a village on the North East coast of Scotland which had a view of the same sea, albeit a bit further north. My bedroom looked out over the sea’s expanse and I always found peace in this view, which opened up an awareness of boundlessness.

Van Ruisdael gets the muted colours so well. There is sunshine in the picture, but it’s not glaring. The vegetation and the village’s buildings are also in muted tones and I find tranquility in their subtlety. I also find some kind of reassurance in the simple depiction of life going on unspectacularly, coolly, modestly. I look at the painting again (alas not in the flesh) at this moment in time and find the same kind of reassurance, the same kind of willingness to find light, which even in this clouded, indirect manner can offer hope in the everyday.

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