Fishermen drawing in a net, 1657
An imposing cloudy sky rises above the horizon of the calm sea and immerses the scene in an interplay of light and shadow. While the boat on the left edge of the picture is still shadowed, the sun illuminates the fishermen on the right through a break in the clouds, who are in turn contrasted against a darkened background. Through this rhythmisation, the painter conveys the impression of pictorial depth, although the sea is hardly given any space in the overall composition against the dominant sky. The colour palette is reduced to a few tones; only the boat bathed in light stands out for its colourfulness.
This painting is an outstanding example of the intensive study of nature to which marine painters in the Netherlands devoted themselves in the 17th century. The hustle and bustle on the water is only the staffage for the actual protagonist of this work – the cloud-covered sky, which towers up almost threateningly. A generation earlier, marine painting was already developing into a stronger reality-based approach, encompassing the correct reproduction of natural phenomena and atmospheres. This change can be seen, among other things, in the horizon line, which moves low down and allows a realistic perspective – as if the viewer were experiencing the scene with his own eyes.
Reinier Nooms probably started out as a sailor, which is why he was given the nickname „Zeeman“. He was probably apprenticed to the famous painter Willem van de Velde the Elder (c. 1611-1693). Noom‘s works are characterised by the precise reproduction of technical details and the subtle play of light and shadow.