Exhibition of Van de Velde marine art
July 21, 2021
First retrospective exhibition of Van de Velde marine artists
The National Maritime Museum in Amsterdam (Het Scheepvaartmuseum) is organising a major retrospective exhibition of the artists Willem van de Velde the Elder (1611-1693) and his son Willem van de Velde the Younger (1633-1707). It will run from 1 October 2021 until 27 March 2022.
The exhibition Willem van de Velde & Son explores the Van de Velde family business, their eye for detail and atmosphere, their extraordinary skill and Van de Velde the Elder’s role as a ‘war correspondent’. The works on display range from rough pencil sketches to meticulously drawn pen paintings, and from dramatic scenes of storms and naval battles and soothing ship portraits to monumental tapestries.
Willem the Elder excelled in extremely detailed drawings; his son in atmospheric oil paintings. Their entrepreneurial spirit secured the Van de Veldes an international audience: they worked for admirals, princes and kings. When the Dutch art market collapsed in the so-called Disaster Year of 1672, father and son accepted an existing invitation from the English king Charles II to work at his court. The Van de Veldes took up residence in a studio at the royal palace in Greenwich.
The time of the Van de Veldes was dominated by three Anglo-Dutch wars that mainly took place at sea between large naval fleets. These naval battles provided the inspiration for a succession of paintings and drawings. Willem van de Velde the Elder’s meticulous ‘pen paintings’ were highly sought after. A pen painting is an ink drawing on a painting-sized canvas or panel. The exhibition includes a number of striking examples including The Battle of Livorno (Rijksmuseum).
Willem van de Velde the Elder was often personally present during the great naval battles. A sailing boat (a ‘galliot’) was made available to him, and he was ferried between the enormous war ships. He sketched the hostilities on paper, adding annotations so that he could later work out these sketches in detail in his studio.
Willem van de Velde the Younger’s father taught him to draw and observe. In contrast to his father, he worked in pen and oils rather than pen and ink. He mastered the entire genre of marine painting: from ships lying at anchor in calm weather or sailing out of the harbour on a light breeze to imposing cloudy skies, dramatic waves and straining sails on the point of snapping.
The Van de Velde’s painting studio existed for over seventy years. Their productivity during this period was unprecedented: they are estimated to have produced more than 2500 drawings and 800 paintings. Today their works of art can be found in every major art and maritime museum around the world. The work of the Van de Veldes symbolises the heyday of Dutch marine painting. At the same time, the father and son inspired many generations of Dutch, British and French marine artists who came after them.
In addition to paintings and drawings, two rare and monumental tapestries woven by Thomas Poyntz in the Royal Tapestry Works near London after a design by Willem van de Velde the Elder will be displayed. These tapestries form a series of six that show various scenes from the Battle of Solebay that took place off the English coast on 7 June 1672.