The Eyes

The Eyes

Friday, July 27, 2018

Dutch Marine Paintings at National Gallery of Art

The Dutch rose to greatness from the riches of the sea.  During the seventeenth century they became leaders in marine travel, transport, commerce, and security as their massive cargo carriers and warships traversed oceans and their small vessels and fishing boats navigated inland and coastal waterways.  Water was central to their economic and naval successes, but was also a source of pleasure and enjoyment.  In the warm summer months, dune-covered beaches offered scenic vistas, while in the winter, frozen canals provided a place for people of all ages to skate, play, and enjoy the outdoors.

In a nation of sailors and skaters, it is no wonder that marine subjects became a favorite of seventeenth-century collectors and artists alike.  Some painters delighted in capturing the marine environs in and around the Dutch coast.  Others turned their attention to the activity of frozen canals on a wintry day.  Many artists also depicted the open seas, including some who often sailed the seas themselves, rendered every imaginable vessel, from fishing boats and major transport ships to the great warships of the Dutch naval fleet, each formulating his compositions with extraordinary accuracy and attention to detail.  At the same time, they also introduced atmospheric light effects and various weather conditions to bring life and drama to their scenes.

From quiet harbor scenes and frozen canals to fierce naval battles and wicked weather, water had an extraordinary impact on art of the Dutch Golden Age.

Skating on the Frozen Amstel River (1611) 
Adam van Breen 
Oil on Panel | 17 7/16 in. × 26 3/16 in. 
National Gallery of Art, Washington
Ships in Distress off a Rocky Coast (1667) 
Ludolf Backhuysen 
Oil on Canvas | 45 in. x 65 7/8 in. 
National Gallery of Art, Washington

Source: National Gallery of Art, Washington