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"It is the Dutch and Flemish masters of the 16th and 17th centuries who have indeed come close to conquering the sea by fixing its capriciousness on panel and canvas… ephemeral moments of human insignificance can be immortalized in art, in turmoil or in tranquillity."
From the Turmoil & Tranquillity opening address by P. W. Waldeck, Ambassador, Netherlands Embassy. Read the whole opening address.
This online gallery celebrates the National Maritime Museum’s unrivalled collection of sixteenth and seventeenth century Dutch and Flemish maritime paintings. Moreover it charts the rise of the seascape as a distinct art form in the Low Countries.
The period 1550 – 1700 saw dramatic shifts in the political, geographic and religious structure of Europe, in which the Dutch Republic became a great maritime power with settlements and trading posts in the East Indies, Africa and the Americas. During this period, artists from the Netherlands, both Flemish and Dutch, depicted the sea in a new and particular way. For the first time they saw it as a natural setting in its own right and this new approach allowed them to integrate the elements of air, light and water in art.
Artists reconsidered the sea as a stage for representing great religious and historical dramas. Also they began to introduce ordinary people and ships into their ‘seascapes’. Increasingly their works included vessels sailing, trading, fighting, fishing and whaling as well as shores and bustling quaysides, both familiar and foreign. Overall they found the sea was a highly versatile subject which allowed their images to embrace both traditional landscape and history painting. It showed many moods, from calm to tempestuous, enabling artistic expression of both turmoil and tranquillity.
Marine painters from the Low Countries became successful all over Europe. In 1672–73, Willem van de Velde and his son Willem, the Younger, took up official appointments as recorders of ‘seafights’ to Charles II and were given a studio in Queen’s House. Today the National Maritime Museum has one of the best collections of Dutch and Flemish seascapes outside Holland and Belgium. This online gallery explores the variety of this special genre of painting.
If you would like to purchase memorabilia for the Turmoil and Tranquillity exhibition please visit the NMM shop.