Oil paintings, Fine art, The Rise of the Seascape, Maritime Art Greenwich

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A Dutch Ship and a Kaag in a Fresh Breeze

Oil paintings

Object details:

Object ID BHC0728
Description Under a tall pale blue sky, with light shimmering through white clouds, a number of ships can be seen sailing in a fresh breeze. A small whale or dolphin is spouting water, in the foreground, amid the choppy waves. Above the low horizon, on the left, a stretch of land is just about visible through the moist atmosphere. On the right there is a kaag, or passenger boat, with several passengers and crew on board. The rigging and detail on the boat has been carefully executed. This vessel is ploughing the waves and, like the distant ships, which appear wrapped in the mist, its depiction displays a degree of naturalism that departs from Vroom’s other images (BHC0726). This naturalism is helped by the eye-level perspective and can be found, more obviously, in the work of the next generation of painters such as Jan van Goyen and Jan Porcellis. In fact, this painting shows remarkable similarities in composition and atmosphere to the Porcellis seascape included in this exhibition (BHC0722). This small image, painted on copper, clearly illustrates the role Vroom’s seascapes played in establishing marine art in Holland. Also, their role in linking the artistic tradition of the beginning of the seventeenth century and the new tonal naturalism evolving in the artist’s home town of Haarlem in the 1620s and 1630s. As an experienced painter, Vroom adapted his established formula of sea-pieces to the latest stylistic developments without having to abandon proven pictorial features such as the whale/dolphin and the ship behind. In fact, it has been argued that it was Vroom’s art which originally helped to pioneer the new pictorial approach to landscape, by popularizing the local Dutch scene in the first instance. He is equally credited with the innovation of the long horizontal view. Here, the water is still painted in a dark green. However the colour seems to be a product of the quality of light on a windy day at sea. The whale is not an allegorical monster reminding Christian spectators of the necessity of a virtuous life. Instead it is a sea-creature which is elsewhere hunted for economic gain (compare BHC0954 and BHC0798). The rendering of the waves appears to be based on the experience of having travelled aboard ship. The everyday quality of the scene and its distinctly ‘Dutch’ character can be found, also, in two drawings at Yale University which both show a similarly low horizon and distribution of vessels on the water. One of them is dated 1629 which suggests a similar date for this copper panel. The artist, Hendrick Cornelisz Vroom, was born in Haarlem in 1562 or 1563. Initially he earned his living as a painter of Delftware. Following this, he travelled extensively in Spain, Italy, France and Poland. In Italy he became acquainted with the painter Paulus Bril and obtained work from Cardinal Ferdinand de’ Medici. On his final return to Haarlem, he developed his career as a marine painter. In the 1590s, he was commissioned to design a series of ten tapestries for the English Lord Admiral, Lord Howard of Effingham (Earl of Nottingham from 1596), to commemorate his victory over the Spanish Armada. From 1650 these hung in the House of Lords in Westminster and were destroyed in the fire of 1834. Although they are recorded in engravings, made by John Pine, in 1739. Vroom pioneered marine painting as a specialist form as the Dutch rose to become a leading maritime power. He worked widely in Europe and his importance was internationally recognized. He is regarded as the father of marine painting and he pioneered the painting of naval scenes and battles in a new style, showing careful attention to naval detail and rigging. Vroom died in Haarlem in 1640. He is generally hailed to be the first ‘Dutch’ marine artist. He outlived his pupil, Jan Porcellis, by eight years. The painting is signed 'Vroom /f 1614' on the rocky shore, lower left. The artist has signed the painting 'Vroom', on the sail of the kaag to the right.
Date made 1628–30

Artist/Maker Vroom, Hendrick Cornelisz
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Ingram Collection
Materials oil on copper
Measurements Frame: 412 mm x 472 mm x 55 mm;Overall: 4 kg;Painting: 184 x 244 mm
  • A Dutch Ship and a Kaag in a Fresh Breeze (BHC0728)
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