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The marvellous marine art of Willem van de Velde II

Willem van de Velde II (1633–1707) was one of the leading Dutch marine painters of the 17th century, if not indeed the best amongst them. He was a consummate artist. He depicted fishing boats and naval ships with remarkable precision and artistic discipline — both of which he learned early in life from his father, a sailor and himself a gifted naval artist. Particularly noteworthy was Van de Velde II’s sensitivity to atmospheric changes and the subtle movement of clouds over calm or rough seas. Beyond the technical aspect, however, one gleans from his works the Dutch people’s special connection with the sea and deep pride in their maritime heritage.

Fanciful seascapes by five photographic artists

Early this February, I invited photographers on Facebook to submit their photographic artworks depicting the sea for a special Marine Café Blog feature. The idea was to show how one can use digital technology to extend the boundaries of the imagination and create memorable images. Here, in no particular order, are the most striking of the works submitted:

Love in the life of a sailor (through artists’ eyes)

A girl in every port. The expression sums up the popular image of the sailor: an inveterate womaniser and skirt-chaser. The reputation, I think, is not wholly undeserved. With their pockets filled with dollars, seafarers get to meet women in all shapes and colours around the world. The temptation to have a fling can be too great to resist.
Some maritime Casanovas never change. They go on with their merry ways long after they have grown older and quit sailing. On the other hand, there are seamen who may have sown their wild oaths but eventually settled down and remained faithful to their wives. I have known both types. Many seafarers, I am sure, can identify themselves with the following artworks:

Unusual marine art that will grab your attention

“That which is not slightly distorted,” wrote the French poet Charles Baudelaire, “lacks sensible appeal; from which it follows that irregularity — that is to say, the unexpected, surprise and astonishment, are an essential part and characteristic of beauty.”
The following works of marine art grab one’s attention precisely because they contain, in varying degrees, the distortion and irregularity that Baudelaire spoke of. They are not an imitation of reality. They are mirrors created by the artist to reflect that reality as much as their own inner thoughts and feelings.

The stupendous seascapes of Hendrik Willem Mesdag

To appreciate the Dutch genius in marine art, one need not look further than the seascapes of Hendrik Willem Mesdag (1831–1915). The Kunstmuseum in The Hague says of the artist (pictured above in his studio in 1903): “Mesdag was unequalled in his ability to produce atmospheric canvases depicting changing weather conditions on the North Sea coast at Scheveningen and the various activities of the fishing community that lived there.”

Promoting art in a shipping world crazed by money

Corporate offices cannot be expected to serve as small art galleries. But why should shipping and manning companies display only ISM and MLC certificates on their lobby walls? Why not also marine paintings, even if they are only repros works by famous artists? Some art would help give the premises a more pleasant atmosphere. It would also send a subtle message to visitors that the CEO knows how to appreciate art and is not a certified philistine.

Appreciating miniature marine art in motley objects

Generally speaking, people tend be more impressed by things that are large than by similar things of smaller scale. Thus, a mansion is likely to draw more attention and plaudits than a bungalow; a limousine more than a compact car; and a cruise ship more than a catamaran. Yet, size does not — or should not — matter when it comes to art.

Calm seas in art: 7 seascapes to soothe the spirit

There are those — the Type A personalities usually— who cannot be satisfied with tranquility. They need and crave for action. Some even thrive in conflict. But surely, most humans long for some moment of peace and calmness. The following works of art, I hope, will soothe the spirit of those who seek such moments.