About the artist

Willem van de Velde the Elder (1611-1693) is considered to be one of the most succesful and prominent marine painters of the Dutch Golden Age.

He came from Leiden and moved to Amsterdam with his wife and son in 1636. In later years he had a studio together with his son, Willem van de Velde the Younger (1633-1707) with a vast production of paintings and grisailles of numerous ships in battles and seascapes. As a very early embedded journalist the Elder witnessed several sea-battles in the period of the Anglo-Dutch Wars (1652-1674) in which he proved himself to be a sharp observer and skillful draftsman, especially in reproducing ships. His action sketches can almost be read as hand-writing and often come with scribbled remarks about colors and the nature of decorations. Back in his workshop he developed them into grisailles (pen paintings), while his son used them as the basis for his fabulous oil paintings.

But not only sea battles were painted: ship’s portraits were a very popular product which father and son Van de Velde produced in abundance. Many captains had their ships painted, sometimes in dangerous situations, and were prepared to pay well. The Van de Veldes created a market for the genre. Other marine painters worked before them, and many followed, but none of them reached the level of craftsmanship, the meticulous detail and the atmosphere the Van de Velde paintings present. With their work they inspired many other painters of their time, and though there were fantastic artists amongst them, a Van de Velde is always recognizable. Apart from their artistic value, the work of the father and his son contributed a lot to our knowledge of the ships of those days and of the lengths our ancestors went through to gather and protect the wealth that gave the era its name in Holland: the Golden Age.