In this coastal scene, Simon the Vlieger presents in this typical Dutch landscape, the dunes of the village of Zandvoort with its lively activity on the beach. Fishing was one of the pillars of prosperity of the Netherlands, so it was an important motif in the genre of marine painting. On the right side there are three ‘pinks’ depicted. The pink was a small fishing vessel used off-shore and beached on rollers after the day’s fishing. De Vlieger created a compositional effect by placing the lighthouse above the dunes, with various figures at different distances on the canvas measuring a number of ships in the background, also in order to create depth and atmospheric perspective. He painted the characteristic Dutch skies with clouds and rays of sunlight.
Beach scenes were a speciality of Simon de Vlieger and he contributed significantly to its development. Typically, a large portion of the painting is devoted to the elements, the depiction of sky and water. The horizontal format allowed him to use atmospheric effects to create an overwhelming sense of space. De Vlieger constructed a compositional effect by placing the beacon-light above the dunes, with various figures at different distances on the canvas measuring a number of ships in the background, also to create depth and atmospheric perspective.
He observed the light and the water by nature, which resulted in this case in a limited tonal palette, which contrasts with the more lavishly color scheme on the left foreground. He created in this painting a convincing impression of the sea, sky, beach and dunes, making the interplay of the elements of nature tangible to which end he exploited the full mastery of his skills.
The painting can be placed among a group of extraordinary beach scenes such as Beach view from the Mauritshuis, The Hague and Beach scene of the Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne. The group of paintings all reflect a luminosity, in their relationship between the different variations of grey and blue in the sky and water and the yellow browns of the dunes and the beach, which is contrasted by some specs of color in the foreground.
The painting is signed and dated on the lower left foreground on the barrel.
Simon de Vlieger was one of the greatest and most important maritime artists of the 17th century. His work consists mainly of paintings, drawings and prints. He was influenced by Jan Porcelis who had taken a new direction with his tonalist or atmospheric painting style. De Vlieger later moved away from this monochrome style to a more realistic use of color, with highly detailed and accurate representations of ships, rigging and the like. In turn, De Vlieger influenced Jan van de Capelle, Hendrick Dubbels and Willem van de Velde the Younger, among others.
As for subject matter, Simon de Vlieger was in the beginning interested in the depiction of stormy seas and sea coasts scattered by rocks but over de course of his career he turned to favor calmer coastlines with the emphasis on the atmospheric effects of the elements on the coasts of the North Sea.
His oeuvre shows a transition from a muted tonality in the early works, much under influence of Jan Porcellis, towards the more classical style of Jan van de Cappelle and the Van de Veldes in his later pictures.