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Jacob van Ruisdael painting on display at the Ulster Museum

A Masterpiece of the Dutch Golden Age has been acquired through the Acceptance in Lieu Scheme and allocated to National Museums Northern Ireland.

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A Masterpiece of the Dutch Golden Age has been acquired through the Acceptance in Lieu Scheme and allocated to National Museums Northern Ireland.

The painting, The Cornfield, by Jacob van Ruisdael (1628/29-c.1682) was offered by the Trustees of the Alfred Beit Foundation in lieu of tax and has been allocated to National Museums NI for display at the Ulster Museum, Belfast.

The subject of the cornfield featured in many of Ruisdael’s works but was rarely treated as the central theme as it is in The Cornfield. The painting features a winding path which draws the eye of the viewer into a landscape of bushy hills and fields of corn moving gently in the wind. The shadows cast by the clouds in the large, luminous sky are skilfully portrayed on the ground below.

Jacob van Ruisdael is commonly considered the foremost landscape painter of the Dutch Golden Age. He was an exponent of a new style of landscape painting which embraced atmospheric and keenly observed depictions of nature.   In so doing, Ruisdael departed from the tonal, monochromatic approach to landscape painting espoused by an earlier generation of Dutch artists and resisted the Italianate manner developed by his peers. As such, his output was a source of inspiration for later generations of British landscape artists such as John Constable.

Acquired more than a century ago by Sir Otto Beit (1865-1930), The Cornfield joined a considerable collection of Old Master works assembled by his relative, the diamond magnate Alfred Beit (1853-1906). In 1930, the collection passed to Otto’s son Sir Alfred Lane Beit (1903-1994) who relocated it some twenty years later to Russborough House, Co. Wicklow where The Cornfield hung in the Saloon alongside other Dutch paintings.

The Cornfield was stolen from Russborough three times between 1974 and 2002 but recovered on each occasion.

Ms Judith Woodworth, Chair of the Alfred Beit Foundation said the Beit Foundation is very pleased that this painting will be displayed on the island of Ireland. “This is a win-win for everyone involved. We are very grateful for the support of the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, of the Acceptance in Lieu Panel, of the British Government and HM Revenue and Customs. It is fantastic that the painting will be displayed in Belfast and spreads the Beits’ fabulous legacy across the island of Ireland. It also resolves another issue for the Foundation which has been committed to Russborough’s restoration. The Foundation continues to develop an endowment fund to support Russborough House and Estate and works assiduously to achieve this.”

Edward Harley, Chairman of the Acceptance in Lieu Panel said: “I am delighted that this beautiful work by the master of Dutch landscape painting, Jacob van Ruisdael, has been acquired through the Acceptance in Lieu Scheme. Ruisdael’s paintings are of great importance to the development of Western landscape art and this depiction of a cornfield is one of his most special works. I am thrilled that the painting will go on display at the Ulster Museum in Belfast for the public to enjoy.”

John Glen, Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism said: “Ruisdael is one of the most renowned landscape painters of the Dutch Golden Age and I am pleased that, thanks to the Acceptance in Lieu scheme, this wonderful piece will be enjoyed by the public at Ulster Museum." 

Kathryn Thomson, Chief Executive of National Museums NI: “We are thrilled that The Cornfield by Jacob van Ruisdael has been given to National Museums NI for all our visitors to enjoy. The Ulster Museum holds a small but important collection of 17th century Dutch paintings and the undisputed beauty of The Cornfield, an important work from the Beit collection, will significantly enhance this collection. I have no doubt that this beautiful painting will captivate visitors to the Ulster Museum.”

The Cornfield by Jacob van Ruisdael will be on display in the Life and Light Dutch and Italian Painting exhibition at the Ulster Museum. Other highlights in the exhibition include works by Dutch painters Jan Symonsz Pynas and Jan van Bijlert, as well as River Landscape with Figures in Boats and a Church in the Distance (1644) from Jacob van Ruisdael’s uncle and teacher, Salomon van Ruysdael. Although they were uncle and nephew they used slightly different spellings of their surname.

Admission to the Ulster Museum is free. For further details visit www.nmni.com


For more information please contact:

Arts Council England enquiries to:Alison Millar, Media Relations Officer, Arts Council England Tel: 020 7268 9648 Email: alison.millar@artscouncil.org.uk

National Museums NI enquiries to:

Andrea Kennedy, JComms, Tel: 028 9076 0066 Email: andrea.kennedy@jcomms.com