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Inside a Forest. Black chalk and pen and ink, brush in grey and brown, charcoal partly soaked in linseed oil. 41.4 x 31.9 cm. Circa 1670. Watermark: Foolscap with five-pointed collar (similar to Heawood 1963).
This imposing, very atmospheric sheet probably dates to Waterloo’s mature period and belongs to the category of large-format, finely executed landscape studies that he in all likelihood made for sale. Here we see the master at the apex of his art. The masterfully rendered forest landscape derives its appeal from the dense atmosphere and refined, complex compositional style. The artist concentrates entirely on portraying in close-up the intersecting, gnarled tree trunks that form an arabesque-like surface pattern. At the same time, however, he succeeds admirably in creating a feeling of transparency and three-dimensionality. The branches and foliage of the individual trees, wafted by a gentle breeze, are executed in an extremely varied and lively manner. In the foreground, the densely overgrown and darkly shaded forest merges into a clearing that leads to a small stream where the viewer catches sight of a pile of chopped wood. Filtered sunlight illuminates the slightly descending slope. Waterloo also plays a subtle game with reality in a figurative sense. No stray wanderer can be spotted in this abandoned stretch of forest, yet the sawn-off branches point to human endeavours to regulate nature’s impetuous growth.
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