Port of Dordrecht with ships and raft, 1871
The bustle on the waters off Dordrecht is enveloped in the light of a warm evening sun. The atmosphere is characterised by great clarity, allowing a deep view of distant shores. In the centre, a barge steers through the harbour, contrasted by the refraction of light on the water and in the sky. The vivid colourfulness and far-sightedness are among the special qualities of Willem Gruyter‘s works.
Due to its strategic location, the city of Dordrecht already played a key role in the Middle Ages. It was grant- ed the staple right, which obliged passing merchants to offer their goods locally for a certain period of time. The Hanseatic League used the city‘s influence to put political pressure on nearby Bruges.
Only a few sources about the life of the painter, draughtsman and etcher Willem Gruyter have survived. He is born in Amsterdam as the son of the art deal- er Willem Gruyter senior (1763-1832) and apprentic- es with the established landscape and marine painter Hermanus Koekkoek the Elder (1815-1882). Gruyter‘s invariable specialisation in marine painting can probably be traced back to his influence. From 1845 he is a member of the Royal Academy. In 1853 he is admitted to the „Arti et Amicitae“ (Arti for short), a society and important artists‘ hub in Amsterdam. Gruyter‘s works are exhibited internationally already during his lifetime. When this painting was created, the artist is working in Bremerhaven. His son of the same name follows in his father‘s footsteps and also becomes a marine painter.