Oil paintings, Fine art, Nature and National Waters, Maritime Art Greenwich

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A Fishing Pink on a Windy Day

Oil paintings

Object connections:

Collection Oil paintings, Fine art, Nature and National Waters, Maritime Art Greenwich
ExhibitionsTurmoil and Tranquillity
Gallery locationNot on display

Object details:

Object ID BHC0720
Description A coastal fishing boat, known as a pink, is shown sailing through choppy water to the left of the painting. Pinks were employed for fishing and transporting people. They were flat-bottomed, square-rigged vessels with the mainmast amidships, the foremast directly behind the stern, and long leeboards. Pinks were designed specifically to land on the beach in order to discharge their catch. The boat is shown pitching at an angle in the water. It heels sharply to the right as it is propelled by the wind which is blowing from the left. The two men on board attend to their nets which they have cast over the side. On the far left a large, three-masted merchant vessel – painted in almost the same colour as the sea itself – is faintly visible on the horizon. On the right a smaller coastal craft with a leeboard and two people on board moves briskly through the water. A coastline with dunes is barely visible in the centre. The painting employs a palette dominated by blues and greys as is characteristic of Porcellis’ work from the mid-1620s. The darkened sky dominates the painting. Dark, rolling clouds are seen encircling a vivid white mass from which light spills onto the sea. Such is Porcellis’ attention to detail that dark shadows cast by the clouds above are carefully painted onto the sails of the principal fishing pink. The sun, while conspicuously absent from the painting, is subtly intimated just above the top left corner. Sunlight pervades the painting in the form of finely drawn lines. These touch upon the surface of the water, imbuing it with luminosity, most notably in the middle distance. In this painting, as in others, the portrayal of ships, sea and clouds, though seemingly natural and spontaneous, was probably concocted in the artist’s studio. The artist probably relied on imagination as much as observation from life. It is known that Porcellis owned a small boat. The clouds in the painting do not stretch from the very distant horizon towards the spectator. Instead they are palpably distorted and flattened. In spite of his mastery of the natural landscape, Porcellis, like most painters of the time, relied on readily accessible drawings and engravings for information on how to depict phenomena such as clouds. He appears to have reworked this composition in his painting of ‘Three Damloopers in a Fresh Breeze’ (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford). The Ashmolean painting has been dated to the last year of Porcellis’ life. It is thought that he painted both works shortly before his death in January 1632. Jan Porcellis has long enjoyed the reputation established for him by the seventeenth century artist and author Samuel van Hoogstraten, who hailed him as ‘the great Raphael of sea painting’. The son of a Flemish Protestant captain, Porcellis was probably born around 1584 in the city of Ghent. Where – and with whom – he trained remains unknown. Although Houbraken asserted that he was apprenticed in Haarlem to Hendrick Cornelisz Vroom. A lack of documentary evidence surrounding Porcellis’ early work, coupled with a distinct incongruity between the works of the two artists, has made this statement difficult to substantiate. Porcellis is likely to have lived and worked in both London and Rotterdam during the early seventeenth century, before leaving to find greater professional success in Antwerp. He entered the Antwerp Guild of St Luke in 1617, before moving back to Haarlem in 1622. Porcellis became an immensely successful painter, whose wise investments included several properties in the town of Zoeterwoude. His final pictures were painted in 1631 and he died in January 1632. To right of the centre the monogram 'JP' appears on a piece of driftwood.
Date made circa 1631

Artist/Maker Porcellis, Jan
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Ingram Collection
Materials oil on panel
Measurements Painting: 305 mm x 432 mm; Frame: 480 mm x 595 mm x 70 mm
  • A Fishing Pink on a Windy Day (BHC0720)
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