Exhibition | The Van de Veldes: Greenwich, Art, and the Sea

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on May 13, 2023

Willem van de Velde the Younger, A Royal Visit to the Fleet in the Thames Estuary, 1672, detail, 1672–94, oil on canvas, 165 × 330 cm (Greenwich: National Maritime Museum, BHC0299). More information is available here»

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Now on view at Greenwich:

The Van de Veldes: Greenwich, Art, and the Sea
Queen’s House, Greenwich, 2 March 2023 — 14 January 2024

In the winter of 1672–73, two celebrated Dutch artists arrived in London. Willem van de Velde the Elder (1610/11–1693) 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 (1633–1707), was a famed painter. From calm coastal scenes to fierce storms, his work captured the many moods of the ocean.

The Burning of the Royal James at the Battle of Solebay, 28 May 1672, tapestry designed by Willem Van de Velde the Elder, made by Thomas Poyntz, 1672 (Greenwich: National Maritime Museum).

King Charles II offered them a studio space at the Queen’s House in Greenwich and each a salary of £100 a year to create drawings and paintings of ‘Sea Fights’. Here they worked, creating magnificent paintings and tapestries, as well as thousands of detailed sketches, drawings, and designs. The National Maritime Museum has the largest collection of works by the Van de Veldes in the world, and now, 350 years on from their first arrival in England, the Queen’s House will once again become a home for these artists, whose work would inspire generations of marine painters, including J.M.W. Turner. The Van de Veldes: Greenwich, Art and the Sea follows the journey of these émigré artists and explores how they changed the course of British maritime art.

“The Van de Velde collection at Greenwich is remarkable not only for its sheer size but for what it reveals about how a 17th-century artist’s studio functioned,” says Dr Allison Goudie, Curator of Art. “This exhibition celebrates this extraordinary aspect of the Van de Velde collection here, and the unique connection it now has with the Queen’s House, the location of the Van de Veldes’ studio for over 20 years.”

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