An excellent example of the mastery of Willem van de Velde the Younger and belongs to a group of marines which consists of his best works.
Willem van de Velde the Younger and Willem van de Velde the Elder were the most important marine artists of the seventeenth century. Willem van de Velde the Younger was the founder of English marine painting and they all worked in his style, except for perhaps Turner .
The earliest dated painting by Willem van de Velde the Younger is from 1651. It must have been clear from the outset that he had a remarkable talent. A letter to a foreign patron dated March 1652 indicates that he was then working independently, and by the early age of 18 he was already well known as ‘a very good painter … of oil paintings of seascapes and battles’.
The immense importance of the Van de Veldes lies not only in the development of marine painting; they are also important as chroniclers of historical events. They were unequalled in their accurate portrayal of ships, rigging and the like, and made the most painstaking and accurate studies from life.
Willem van de Velde the Younger set the tone for a new development in marine painting, incorporating atmosphere and the effect of light in combination with a sunlit coloration. His subjects range from small pieces intended for private collections, simple and clear in their design, to large or very large historical and spectacular pieces with more complex compositions. It was mainly individuals and institutions with ties to the navy that ordered the larger paintings. Admirals and other naval officers who wanted to have a picture on a wall in their homes of their exploits or of the ships they had commanded.
The painting ‘A Calm – ‘Three-deckers, with a kaag and a smalschip in calm shallow waters near a Dutch shore’ can be dated ca. 1660 and is made by Willem van de Velde the Younger in his Dutch period. On the left side of the painting, we see a few three-masters lying for anchor. A kaag, a flat-bottomed vessel with leeboards – one of which is clearly visible on the starboard side – a type of ship that could be found throughout the Netherlands, on the inland waterways and on the estuaries, the Zuiderzee and the Waddenzee. On the foreground there is also a smalschip she was the true cargo carrier of inland navigation, a vessel commonly used to load and unload goods.
The paintsurface allows for an especially vivid appreciation of Willem van de Velde’s refined technique and his unique ability to render light and atmosphere. In this example, the artist captures the essence of a still, bright summer’s day on the water. Typically, a large portion of the painting is devoted to the sky, in which Van de Velde demonstrates the full extent of his mastery of painting clouds.
Against a blue backdrop, airy, voluminous, cumulus clouds are depicted variously in light and shadow to dazzling effect with their reflections subtly caught in the mirror-like water below. Although the boats appear to have been arranged randomly, their specific positions and character have been worked out with clear and careful deliberation in order to create an effortless sense of recession into the distance and an overriding sense of spatial harmony. On the left foreground the initials of Willem van de Velde the Younger are seen on the beach.
A short Biography
Willem van de Velde the Younger was born in Leiden in 1633. Shortly afterwards the family moved to a house near the River IJ in Amsterdam. His father had by then achieved fame as a skilled and accurate naval draughtsman and a maker of pen paintings. Willem van de Velde the Elder was the leading artist in this fascinating technique. It was probably Willem van de Velde the Younger’s father who taught him how to depict a ship accurately.
He subsequently became a pupil of the famous Simon de Vlieger (1600/01-1653) and learned the art of painting. At the age of 18 he was working independently-his earliest dated painting bears the inscription 1651 but from 1652 onwards father and son worked together. The immense importance of the Van de Veldes lies not only in the development of marine painting; they are also significant as compilers of historical records.
In 1672 father and son decided to try their luck in England in the service of King Charles II. The king and his brother James, Duke of York, were so delighted to have gained the services of the two leading marine artists of the day that father and son were given a large house in Greenwich and a studio was built for them in the Queen’s House there. His paintings of the English fleet hung on the walls of the royal court. He was soon considered the greatest naval painter of his time in England. His works were very expensive and he amassed a considerable fortune as a result. The English bought up as much as possible the works he had made in Holland and elsewhere. This made them so rare that they doubled in price in one year. His later works set the tone of English naval paintings in the 18th century.
Van de Velde the Elder continued to work until his death in 1693. Willem the Younger remained in England after his father’s death, although he visited the Dutch Republic from time to time.
He died in 1707 and, like his father, was buried in St James’s, Piccadilly.
Biography Willem van de Velde the Younger