Essential Information

Type Exhibitions
Queen's House
Date and Times Exhibition opens 24 February 2023

In 1673, two Dutch artists travelled to England at the request of Charles II.

Willem van de Velde the Elder was renowned for his highly accurate drawings of ships and maritime life. He would even go to sea himself, paper in hand, to capture naval battles as they were raging.

His son, Willem van de Velde the Younger, was a celebrated painter. From calm coastal scenes to fierce storms, his work captured the many moods of the ocean.

Together they established a studio at the Queen's House in Greenwich. Here they worked, creating royal commissions, magnificent paintings and tapestries, as well as thousands of detailed sketches, drawings and designs.

Now, 350 years on from their first arrival in England, the Queen's House will once again become a home for the Van de Veldes.

The Van de Veldes: Greenwich, Art and the Sea will follow the journey of these émigré artists, and explore how they changed the course of British maritime art.

Prepare to set sail for Greenwich, and experience the art of the Van de Veldes.

Exhibition open from 24 February 2023 – 14 January 2024

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Exhibition highlights

A woman walks in front of a large tapestry during conservation work. The tapestry shows a naval scene and is suspended from the ceiling, with part of the bottom border trailing on the floor

The Solebay tapestry

The Burning of the Royal James at the Battle of Solebay, 28 May 1672 is one of the highlights of The Van de Veldes: Greenwich, Art and the Sea.

The dramatic tapestry, designed by Willem van de Velde the Elder, is the largest work of its kind in our collection. But, due to its age, size and high silk content, the piece is in an extremely fragile state.

Thanks to the generous response to our crowdfunding campaign in partnership with Art Fund, the tapestry is undergoing specialist conservation work to enable it to go on display. We are excited to finally be able to bring it back to the Queen's House where it was first designed.

A conservator works on a small portion of a large maritime oil painting

A Royal Visit to the Fleet in the Thames Estuary

One of the most ambitious seascapes of its time, A Royal Visit to the Fleet in the Thames Estuary was painted by Willem van de Velde the Younger in the 17th century.

At almost four metres wide, the painting is one of the largest ever made by the artist. It depicts the meeting of King Charles II and his brother, James, Duke of York, on board the Prince in 1672.

Since 2020 Royal Museums Greenwich specialists have been carrying out vital conservation work on the painting. This treatment will enable the work to go on display and allow visitors to fully appreciate the Younger's skill.

A small ship in the middle of a storm at sea. The oil painting is dark and foreboding

Who were the Van de Veldes?

The Van de Veldes were two of the most sought-after marine artists in 17th century Europe.

They were contemporaries of Rembrandt in the Dutch Republic, but were invited to live and work in England by Charles II following the restoration of the monarchy.

The pair were given a studio in the Queen’s House in Greenwich and a salary of £100 a year each to create drawings and paintings of 'Sea Fights'. Yet their contribution to English art stretched far beyond the war and politics of the day.

The Van de Veldes are considered the founders of English marine painting and inspired the work of many, including J.M.W Turner.

The National Maritime Museum has the largest collection in the world of works by the Van de Veldes.

Woman walking up the tulip stairs

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This exhibition opens in February 2023, but works by the van de Veldes are currently on display at the Queen's House. Book your free visit now. See all tickets and prices

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