Willem van de Velde II (Leiden 1633 – 1707 London)
A Fleet of Men o’War and Yachts in a Fresh Breeze
Black chalk, pen and brown ink, watermark horn in a shield, 195 x 305 mm (7.8 x 12 inch)
Willem van de Velde the Younger followed in the footsteps of his artist-father Willem van de Velde I (1611–1693), who was his first teacher. He later studied with Simon de Vlieger, and specialized in marine scenes like this one. While his father took a meticulous, documentary approach to his subject matter, the Younger Van de Velde developed a more expressive and atmospheric style. Following the economic downturn in Holland in 1672 the Van de Veldes emigrated to London, where they were much patronised. Willem II’s brother , the animal and landscape painter Adriaen van de Velde (1636 -1672), had died in the same year.
Our drawing is typical of the Younger’s style. These drawings in black chalk were often made in situ, the medium particularly suited for swiftly documenting momentary impressions, while the details in brown ink could have been added after the artist had returned to the studio, the scene still fresh in the artistic mind.
While the execution of this sheet may not have taken more than minutes, it is well-observed and of strong impression. The man o’ war in the right foreground has flags and banners outlined against the sky in a stiff breeze, as do the other vessels at the left and in the background.
Father and son Van de Velde took a uniquely modern and almost journalistic approach to their art and sailed out in a small rented vessel to document in series of drawings the important naval events of their age – often with considerable danger to themselves. They documented in many sheets the naval engagements of the Second and Third Anglo-Dutch Wars (1665-77 and 1672-74 respectively), which served as a visual repertoire for paintings produced by the efficient Van de Velde studio. The present sheet is likely to have been executed during one of these documentary journeys.
Large clusters of drawings from the studio are preserved in the Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam, and in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.1
SOLD TO A PRIVATE COLLECTOR, ENGLAND
1. See The Willem van de Velde drawings in the Boymans-van Beuningen Museum Rotterdam, Rotterdam, 1979, 3 vols., and Van de Velde drawings: a catalogue of drawings in the National Maritime Museum, made by the Elder and the Younger Willem van de Velde, Cambridge 1958, 2 vols.