The tradition of marine painting really began in Holland in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, perhaps because of
the significance of seafaring in establishing and maintaining the Dutch Republic. Marine painting began in keeping with medieval Christian art tradition, and so the original paintings portrayed the sea only from a bird’s eye view, and everything, even the waves, were organized and symmetrical. The viewpoint, symmetry, and overall order of these early paintings were meant to keep in mind the organization of the heavenly cosmos from which the earth was viewed. Later Dutch artists like Hendrick Vroom, however, developed new methods for painting, often from a horizontal point of view, with a lower horizon
and more focus on realism than symmetry.
The maritime genre naturally shares much with landscape painting, and in developing the depiction of the sky the two went together. Maritime artists probably often had precise models of ships available to help them achieve accurate depictions. The prolific workshop of Willem van de Velde the Elder and his son was the leader of the later decades, tending, as at the beginning of the century, to make the ship the subject, but incorporating the advances of the tonal works of earlier decades where the emphasis had been on the sea and the weather.
The Elder van de Velde had first visited England in the 1660s, but both father and son left Holland permanently for London in 1672, leaving the master of heavy seas, the German-born Ludolf Bakhuizen, as the leading artist in Amsterdam. Reinier Nooms, who had been a sailor and signed his works Zeeman ("seaman"), specialized in highly accurate battle scenes and ship portraits, with some interest
also in effects of light and weather, and it was his style that was later to be followed by many artists. Abraham Storck and Jan Abrahamsz Beerstraaten were other battle specialists. Nooms also painted several scenes of dockyard maintenance and repair operations, which are unusual and of historical interest.
Most notable of the Dutch artists’ who influenced the British marine art tradition were Willem van de Velde the Elder, and his son, the Younger, both of whom emigrated to England in 1672 at the invitation of King Charles II. Willem van de
Velde the Younger was especially admired and thus influential in England because he lived and worked there for thirty-five years. The methods developed by the Dutch to successfully depict some of the sea’s more elusive features, light and shadow, or the reflection of the sky over the ocean’s uneven surface, for example, were adopted by British artists as they founded their own marine art tradition. Knowledge of Dutch methods of marine painting was considered so fundamental to a successful marine painting education that it was likened to “grammar school” for the British marine artist. In fact, it is not uncommon to find Dutch ships painted into the works of British marine artists as a tribute to the Dutch artists from whom they gained so much knowledge and inspiration.
The category titled 'Other Artists' will feature a range of maritime artists from other countries and other times, all of
whom depict sailing ships of the 17th century or nearly so.