Museum Purchase, Lloyd O. and Marjorie Strong Coulter Fund
Simon de Vlieger’s marine and beach scenes rank among his most admired works. Here, the distinctive lighthouse perched atop the dunes identifies the location as the beach near Zandvoort, a fishing village on the coast near Haarlem. A gathering of fisherfolk peddling their catch dominates the foreground. With masterful perspective, the artist contrasts this group with diminutive figures and sailing vessels near the distant water’s edge. All of this human activity occurs under a superbly rendered cloudy sky in which the light playing across the scene seems to be constantly shifting, energizing the painting to brilliant pictorial effect.
3/10/2014-Per Johnny Van Haeften Ltd's Website (http://www.johnnyvanhaeften.com/coastal-scene-near-zandvoort):
Simon de Vlieger’s beach scenes rank among his most notable and admired works. The setting for the present scene is the beach at Zandvoort aan Zee[i], a fishing village on the coast near Haarlem. The location can be identified by the distinctive lighthouse perched atop the dunes. This rather unusual, square structure seems to have been an appealing subject, since several artists depicted the same tower. It features in a drawing by Jan van de Velde[ii] and an etching by Claes Jansz. Visscher, which appears on page two of his Plaisante Plaetsen (Pleasant Places), a series of eleven landscape prints published in 1611. Jan van Goyen was evidently drawn to the same landmark as a drawing[iii] in his London sketchbook of 1627/35 indicates and the motif crops up in other works by de Vlieger[iv].
Whereas de Vlieger painted mostly expansive views of beaches, dotted with relatively small figures, in this painting greater prominence is given to the genre aspects of the scene: the figures are larger in scale and seen from a close vantage point, thus fully revealing de Vlieger’s skill as a figure painter. A fishing boat has been dragged to the head of the beach and a group of fisherfolk is gathered round it, standing or sitting in small groups, chatting to one another. The day’s catch is laid out for sale on the sand, or is being packed into baskets for transport by horse-drawn cart. Standing in the centre of the picture with his back to the viewer, is a man in a buff coat, who is deep in conversation with a fishwife, wearing an upturned basket on her head. To the right, the undulating dunes give way to a flat expanse of sand and the cool, grey sea beyond. Overhead, clouds billow upwards in a lofty sky: the taste of salt on the sea breeze is almost palpable.
In the seventeenth century, the Dutch beach view, or strandtje, developed gradually into an independent genre. Stechow[v] charts the evolution of this genre from its late sixteenth-century origins in prints and drawings of stranded whales, spectacles that drew large crowds, to the painted representations of the embarkation or landing of dignitaries. Hendrick Cornelisz. Vroom was among the first to depict the beach for its own sake and not as a backdrop to some historical event. Already by 1604, Karel van Mander noted that “Vroom is emerging as a highly competent painter of ships and is improving by the day. He has produced innumerable paintings of the seashore with fishing scenes, fishing boats and other small craft, and since these are subjects he renders with ease, they are yielding a substantial profit[vi]”. However, his colourful beachscapes, taken from a high viewpoint and packed with lively incident, were still rooted in the Flemish mannerist tradition. It remained for Jan van Goyen and Salomon van Ruysdael during the late 1620s and early 1630s to introduce a more unified type of strandtje by lowering the horizon, employing a diagonal design and limiting the palette to a few closely-related, subdued hues.
De Vlieger’s earliest views of activity on the seashore also begin around this time. The earliest dated example seems to be The Beach at Scheveningen of 1633, in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich[vii], but he went on to develop the theme more fully in the following decade. In terms of style, composition, figure types and warm palette, the present painting can be compared to a beach scene in the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, which is datable circa 1643/44[viii]. In this deceptively simple composition, de Vlieger devotes two-thirds of the picture to the magnificent, cloud-filled sky. A plunging diagonal line, starting with the lighthouse on the left and falling away towards the retreating coastline on the right, creates an impression of great distance. Repoussoir motifs such as the wooden post planted in the sand in the left foreground and the wooden roller used to drag boats up the beach, lead the eye into the composition, whilst artfully-placed groups of small figures and the fishing vessels drawn up on the shoreline, serve as visual aides to the assessment of distance. The sense of depth is further enhanced by alternating passages of dark and light that articulate the restless, curvilinear forms of the dunes. De Vlieger’s skill in evoking the silvery atmospheric effects of the North Sea coast is admirably demonstrated here in his subtle rendering of the morning sunlight filtered through moisture-laden clouds and the luminous band of pearly-grey that defines the far horizon.
Despite his considerable success, surprisingly little is known about Simon de Vlieger’s early career. He was probably born in Rotterdam in 1600 or 1601, ut his presence there is not documented before 10th January 1627, the date of his marriage to Anna Gerridts. There is no record of his training although his early paintings of the 1620s and 1630s are strongly indebted to Jan Porcellis, who worked in Rotterdam intermittently between 1605 and 1615. The influence of Hendrick Cornelisz. Vroom and Adam Willaerts is also evident in his work. In 1634, de Vlieger moved to Delft and later that year enrolled as a member of the St. Luke’s Guild. He continued to maintain some links with Rotterdam and in December 1637 bought a house there from the painter and art dealer, Crijn H. Volmarijn, for the sum of 900 guilders. As part of the deal, he agreed to pay off his debt by supplying the dealer with paintings to the value of 31 guilders each month. However, he does not appear to have lived there but moved on from Delft to Amsterdam in July 1638. He was registered as a burgher of Amsterdam in 1643 and was still living there in November 1648. In 1649 he bought a house in Weesp, a small town on the Zuiderzee near Amsterdam. He died there in 1653.
De Vlieger developed a wide repertory of marine subjects and is noted for his calms, beach scenes, parade subjects and storms. Although his reputation rests chiefly on his marines, he was a versatile artist who also painted landscapes, portraits and genre scenes. He was a fine draughtsman and etcher. In 1638 he was involved in designing the decorations to celebrate Marie de’ Medici’s entry into Amsterdam. He also designed tapestries for the city magistrates of Delft, decorated the organ shutters for the St. Laurenskerk in Rotterdam and, late in his life, undertook the design of a large window in Amsterdam’s Nieuwe Kerk. Simon de Vlieger formed an important link between the second and third generation of Dutch marine painters and his influence was felt through the work of his most important pupil, Willem van de Velde the Younger, and his direct successors, Jan van de Capelle and Hendrik Dubbels.
------------------------- [i] We are grateful to Drs. F. J. Duparc for pointing out that the location depicted here is of the beach at
Zandvoort aan Zee.
[ii] Jan van de Velde (c. 1593-1641), The Dunes and Lighthouse near Zandvoort, c. 1615-25, pen and brush,
brown ink and brown wash over traces of black chalk, 25.8 x 41.5 cm, Yale Art Gallery, New Haven,
Connecticut, inv. No. 1961.65.34.
[iii] Jan van Goyen, London sketchbook of 1627/35, H.-U. Beck, Jan van Goyen. Leben und Werk, 2 vols.,
Amsterdam, 1972-73, vol I., no. 844/144.
[iv] For example, Simon de Vlieger’s Beach Scene with Fishermen displaying their Catch, signed and
indistinctly dated, canvas, 72.4 x 111.1 cm, formerly Johnny Van Haeften Ltd., London.
[v] Wolfgang Stechow, Dutch Landscape Painting of the Seventeenth Century, 1966, pp. 101-109.
[vi] Karel van Mander, Het Schilder-Boeck, Haarlem, 1604, folios 287r-288v.
[vii] Simon de Vlieger, The Beach at Scheveningen, 1633, on panel, 68.6 x 106.7 cm, National Maritime
Museum, Greenwich, inv. no. BHCO774.
[viii] Simon de Vlieger, View of a Beach with Fishermen, signed, on panel, 47 x 71.7 cm, Wallraf-Richartz
Museum, Cologne. See J. Kelch, in J. Giltay & J. Kelch, Praise of Ships and the Sea. The Dutch
Marine Painters of the 17th Century, exh. cat., Rotterdam & Berlin, 1996, pp. 190-93, no. 35, in which
he compares the Cologne painting to a painting of a Beach with Fishermen and Boats, signed and dated
1644, panel, 89.5 x 122 cm, Krupp Family Collection, Essen, inv. no. KH 501.
Help us make our collections more accessible by providing keywords to describe this artwork. The BCMA uses the
Getty Art & Architecture Thesaurus to
provide consistent keywords. Enter a keyword in the field below and you will be prompted with a list of possible matching AAT preferred terms.