Artist profile: Willem van de Velde (Elder and Younger)

The Willem van de Veldes (Elder and Younger) moved to London from Amsterdam in 1673–74 and became a strong influence on English marine painting.

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By royal commission

The father and son moved to England after the collapse of the economy in Amsterdam, where they had been living. 

Soon after their arrival in London, these two expert marine artists began their first major commission for the king, a set of tapestries of the battle of Solebay depicting the third Anglo-Dutch War. Willem van de Velde the Elder produced a series of drawings, while his son completed paintings.

They moved to England in 1672 and by 1674 were employed by the king, with a studio at the Queen's House. 

Over the next thirty years the van de Veldes produced works depicting ships, battles and life at sea for the English court, the aristocracy and naval officers.

Both artists are buried at St. James' Church in Piccadilly, alongisde a memorial to them and their work. 

The inauguration of King James II

Following the death of Charles II, his brother James II was crowned at Westminster and a magnificent firework display was held to mark the occasion. Willem van de Velde the Elder produced three drawings of the event which are now held in the National Maritime Museum. The drawings document the crowd of yachts, barges and wherries with sightseers present at the event, plus the scale and jubilation of the public celebration.

The van de Velde collection

The collection of works by the van de Velde’s held in the Museum span the late 17th century. The subject matter is varied, encompassing Dutch and English scenes, battles, ship portraits, ship ornamentation, ceremonial views of fleets and figure studies. The works were acquired for the Museum from the 1920s on, including from major European collections.

Willem the Elder’s pen paintings contain exceptionally detailed portraits of ships and life at sea, plus a series of works depicting actions in the Anglo-Dutch wars (1651-73), some of which the artists witnessed first-hand.

Using our collections for research

The collections at Royal Museums Greenwich offer a world-class resource for researching maritime history, astronomy and time.

Find out how you can use our collections for purposes of research