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The Beach at Scheveningen

BHC0774
Oil paintings

Object details:

Object ID BHC0774
Description A scene on the beach at Scheveningen. Scheveningen, originally a fishing village on the northern Dutch coast near The Hague, was immortalized in paint by many artists. Here, it is identified by the church tower which rises into the swathes of greyish cloud on the far right. An extensive, open sky occupies the bulk of the composition. Lustrous sunlight emanates from the horizon and spreads over both the sea and the sandy beach. On the beach, in the distance, a coach rides across the sand being pulled by a pair of white horses. Pinks lie on the beach, drawn up on rollers. Closest to the viewer, a boat is shown in the shallows, in stern view, resting on its keel. One member of the crew is hauling fish from the boat and another is walking towards the beach holding a net. On the shore, two men on horseback and their dog meet the fishing boat. Fish unloaded from the boat are laid out on the sand, where they lie glistening in the daylight as a crowd inspects them. These compact, sturdy figures are tightly packed together in a frieze-like composition. Some are shown bending down. While others are locked in conversation. A number of them have large, flat baskets, used for holding and carrying fish. One woman, in particular, holds her basket upon her head. This echoes a motif de Vlieger employed in a roughly contemporary drawing of figures on the beach near Scheveningen. The intense interest the protagonists display in the catch underscores the economic importance of fishing to the survival of Dutch communities. So, too, does de Vlieger’s use of light in this work which subtly emphasizes the scintillating bellies of the caught fish. De Vlieger’s painting may be read as an illustration of one aspect of national prosperity. The resilience of fishing villages like Scheveningen and its inhabitants, all of whom identified with the sea and with the topography of the Dutch coastline, were a source of tremendous national pride. The artist has infused this scene with national sentiment, evoking a distinctly Dutch atmosphere through the use of a herring-like grey and brown tonality. The painting may equally merit a religious interpretation, since the profusion of fish and the safe return of the fishing boats represents ‘an image of God’s reward to those folk living by the sea’. Christiaan van Eeghen has recently attributed a pen drawing of a 'Beach View' from the National Maritime Museum’s collection to Simon de Vlieger and proposed that it is a preparatory drawing for 'The Beach at Scheveningen'. Formerly considered the work of Willem van de Velde the Elder, this drawing shows a beach scene with vessels floating in the water. Figures are seen wading in the shallows and yet more people are scattered at intervals along the shoreline. Both drawing and painting share an arc-shaped composition, a low-lying horizon and a sprawling sky, broken up by a series of distinct vertical lines. In both works, the tower of Scheveningen church stretches into the sky on the far right. Simon de Vlieger was born in Rotterdam in around 1600. He was an important early painter in the emerging discipline of marine art. In 1634, he became a member of the Delft Guild of Painters and, by 1638, was in Amsterdam. He settled in nearby Weesp and remained there for the rest of his life. De Vlieger influenced the direction of Dutch marine art decisively during the 1630s and 1640s. Significantly, as the pupil of Jan Porcellis and the master of Willem van de Velde the Younger, he provided a bridge between the second generation of Dutch marine painters and the third. He demonstrated his versatility and technical accomplishment by painting a wide variety of marine subjects and was a sophisticated early exponent of the Dutch realist tradition. He moved away from a monochrome palette towards a silvery tonality and demonstrated a closely observed knowledge of shipping. He, also, painted figural representations for churches, genre scenes and landscapes and was an etcher. De Vlieger died in the coastal town of Weesp early in 1653. Although, de Vlieger did not consistently date his work, this painting is inscribed 'S de Vlieger Aº 1633' on the beach roller, lower right. From around this point, until his death, de Vlieger focused intently on beaches, estuaries and shorelines, assiduously exploring the Dutch coastline and reinforcing its status as a purposeful subject matter for Dutch artists of the time.
Date made 1633

Artist/Maker Vlieger, Simon de
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Palmer Collection. Acquired with the assistance of H.M. Treasury, the Caird Fund, the Art Fund, the Pilgrim Trust and the Society for Nautical Research Macpherson Fund.
Materials oil on panel
Measurements Frame: 845 mm x 1212 mm x 80 mm;Painting: 686 x 1067 mm;Weight: 19 kg
Parts
  • The Beach at Scheveningen (BHC0774)
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