The painting by Adam Willaerts (sometimes Willarts, Willers) is a typical Flemish style composition of a coastal scene with activity and brightly coloured people on the shore. There are a few Dutch ships depicted and on the rightside high cliffs are rising, surmounted by a castle. The composition is narrative and imaginative and has a balanced relationship between foreground, middle plan and background with a traditional color palette and a schematic depiction of waves. His work clearly shows the influence of Jan Breughel the Elder, Joos the Momper, Roelandt Savery and Hendrick Cornelisz. Vroom, the father of marine painting.
Born in Antwerp in 1577, but mainly working in Utrecht, Adam Willaerts began his long career as a painter depicting historical sea battles, harbour scenes and fantastic shipwrecks, much in de style of Hendrick Vroom. Later in his career his choice of subject-matter changed and he started to concentrate more on painting beach or coastal scenes, like this painting.
Willaerts is thought to have travelled at some stage of his life, as occasional depictions exist of harbour scenes in Norway as well as the Dutch colonies, usually with Dutch frigates lying at anchor.
Adam Willaerts had three sons who all became painters. Abraham Willaerts and Isaac Willaerts, studied with him and painted both seascapes and portraits. The eldest son Cornelis Willaerts, unlike his father and younger brothers, was a history painter who also painted portraits and landscapes. Abraham Willaerts marine subjects, like his father, follow closely the Flemish tradition. They also show strong similarities in style and had almost an identical monogram, which makes in occasionally difficult to distinguish between the work of father and son.
Adam Willarts was one of the most important marine painters of the beginning of the seventeenth century. His Flemish-style compositions are narrative and imaginative and usually follow the traditional painting layout. A balanced relationship between foreground, middle plan and background typifies his work, as does a traditional colour palette and a schematic depiction of waves. He remained faithful to this style even when seascape painting in the Netherlands evolved significantly towards a more naturalistic depiction of the sea and the ships that sailed on it.