Jan Porcellis marine painter

Jan Porcellis marine painter (1580/84-1632)
Choppy sea with frigates, undated
Oil on wood
53 x 83 cm

Probably the oldest painting in our collection is by Jan Porcellis, who is one of the earliest exponents of marine painting and was already highly regarded in artistic circles during his lifetime – even Rembrandt owned works by him.

Small merchant sailing ships and warships struggle with the churning sea. The fishing boat in the foreground on the left attracts the viewer’s attention: it is grazed by a beam of light that falls on the water and illuminates the foaming waves. This light makes the boat appear three-dimensional, and the people on board are clearly visible. Strong contrasts of light and dark dominate the image, and the color palette is reduced to shades of gray and brown. Only the Dutch flags are splashes of color. The short swell as well as the distant coastlines are typical features of the Dutch „Aquae interiores“.

In the 1720s, marine painting underwent a change from richly colored, narrative „documentations“ to a simpler pictorial composition. The correct reproduction of nature is now more in the foreground. Brushstrokes become looser and more visible, creating a mobility on the canvas and thus a more powerful mood.

Jan Porcellis was one of the first to make the transition to a reality-based conception of Dutch painting with his „pewter“ seascapes. He was probably a student of the founder of marine painting, Hendrick Cornelisz. Vroom (c. 1563-1640), and is considered a pioneer of so-called „tonalist“ marine painting, which works with a smaller color palette and finer color gradations. The International Maritime Museum Hamburg owns two oil paintings by Jan Porcellis. Like most of his works, these are undated, which is why both works compete for the rank of the oldest painting in the collection.