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

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A Shallow Sea with Fishing Boats

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 BHC0820
Description A seascape showing fishing boats to the left and right. This scene, bathed in golden light, is dominated by a rarefied, cloud-filled sky which takes up approximately three quarters of the picture surface and is ostensibly the main subject of the work. While thick grey clouds are predominant in the upper corners of the composition, bright white clouds threaten to burst forth in the centre of the sky. Amid the plethora of nebulous grey forms, several patches of blue appear fleetingly, only to be obscured by dark clouds again. By contrast, the sea is painted in a series of thin, brown stripes and peaks. In the foreground, to the right, a small rowing boat or shallop, holding four figures, leads the eye towards the flat horizon. One of the figures rows the boat while another stands upright in order to tend fishing nets. A third holds a pole over the side. On the left a coastal craft, probably a smalschip, flies a Dutch flag and edges towards the middle of the composition. It is shown in distant port-quarter view, with its leeboard visible and several men standing on the deck. On either side of this boat, other vessels are depicted as silhouettes in the distance. The vessel, which is silhouetted to the right of the smalschip, lies at anchor broadside. Two further smalschips appear on the far right, one of which is starkly illuminated by the break in the clouds. This vessel is rigged with square foresail and mainsail and flies the Dutch flag. Sunlight trickles through the clouds again to fall onto a section of relatively flat water which Mulier has duly highlighted with thin white brushstrokes on the far left of the picture. The artist has signed his monogram, 'PM' on a log to the left of centre. The artist, Pieter Mulier the Elder, was born in Haarlem in around 1600. His family were cloth-weavers and refugees from Flanders. Details surrounding his life are meagre. Although archival records refer to his marriage, in 1635, to Haarlem-born Maycke de Great with whom he had at least two children. Their son, Pieter Mulier the Younger, born two years later, was also a marine painter noted for his storm scenes. He worked in Italy under the name ‘Cavaliere Tempesta’. However nothing is known about Pieter Mulier the Elder’s artistic training. Although he became a member of the Haarlem Guild of St Luke in 1638 and, later, took on younger pupils. He continued to work consistently in Haarlem throughout the 1640s and 1650s. He is known to have accumulated substantial personal debts as a result of excessive drinking. He died in Haarlem. The exact year of his death is unknown. The depiction of such boats is a common theme in Mulier's work. Although they are more often associated with rougher seas. This painting in particular, with its dramatically differentiated sky, owes much to the influences of Mulier’s contemporaries such as Jan van Goyen (BHC0806) and Salomon van Ruysdael. Also it marks a departure from his earlier paintings in which storms, tempests and breaking waves were predominant and the influence of Jan Porcellis was discernible. Like those of Porcellis, Mulier’s early works were characterized by low horizons and forcibly irregular waves. While it has been impossible to determine categorically who may have been Mulier’s master, it is not surprising to learn that Porcellis lived and worked in Mulier’s native Haarlem from 1622 to 1624, during the Mulier’s formative years.
Date made circa 1640

Artist/Maker Mulier, Pieter
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 Painting: 320 mm x 560 mm; Frame: 435 mm x 690 mm x 60 mm
  • A Shallow Sea with Fishing Boats (BHC0820)
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