A Frigate off the Coast
Ludolf Bakhuizen (Emden 1630 - Amsterdam 1708)
Oil on canvas
54 x 69 cm
Signed and dated lower left centre: L: BAKH : / 1697
…; collection William Rome (c. 1842-1907), Creeksea Place, Essex; his sale, London (Christie’s), 21 December 1907, no. 66, as Bakhuizen (‘A COAST SCENE. With a man-of-war, boats and figures, 20 ½ in. by 26 ½ in.’); the dealer Gaston Ritter von Mallmann (1860-1917), Berlin; his sale, Berlin (R. Lepke), 12 June 1918, no. 141, as Bakhuizen (‘Marine. Im Mittelgrunde ein grosses holländisches Segelschiff, ringsum kleinere Schiffe. Rechts im Vordergrunde fünf Personen auf dem Uferrand, Bezeichnet links unten: L. Bakh. 1696. Leinwand 54 x 69 cm’);…; anonymous sale, Cologne (Van Ham), 19 November 2020, no. 1082, as anonymous Dutch master
C. Hofstede de Groot, Kritisches und bescheibendes Verzeichnis der hervorragendsten holländischen Maler des 17. Jahrhunderts, 10 vols., Essling/Paris 1907-28, vol. VII, p. 286, no. 184
A heavily-armed frigate seen on her port side sails close-hauled, her magnificent ensign flapping in the wind of a stiff breeze. Other vessels of varying type and size are scattered across the rough water. In the immediate foreground a fisherman is hauling a small pink onto the shore. His colleague toils a basket full of fish up a ladder. Elusive clouds stretch up against a murky sky. At the right is a strip of land.
Ludolf Bakhuizen is the unmistakable master of tempest marine scenes. Only rarely did he depict calm weather. His predilection for stormy weather is apparent in the present picture as well. The rolling waves dangerously advance towards the shore. Bakhuizen’s early works with their silvery palette and sensitive portrayal of the weather owe a strong debt to the innovative Simon de Vlieger and to Willem van de Velde the Younger. This, however, is a mature work. In the course of his career Bakhuizen developed a distinctive style of his own, marked by a dramatic chiaroscuro. Bakhuizen typically depicted ships as dark silhouettes set off against a bright sky while placing the hulls and sails of other vessels in strong sunlight. His cloud formations are often heavy dark volumes balancing the dark shapes of the ships on the water. Bakhuizen’s dramatically charged idiom with its strong contrasts between light and shadow has a counterpart in the whimsically lit church interiors of Emanuel de Witte and generated a school of followers that were to be active well into the nineteenth century. Our painting belongs to the final phase of Bakhuizen’s production. It was during the 1680s, as De Beer noted, that Bakhuizen’s marines became ever more structured, probably in response to the classicist landscape style of Nicolas Poussin and Gaspard Dughet. Bakhuizen did not spend less attention to a faithful rendition of atmosphere but subjugated it to formal considerations. Similarly, the artist lavished the same astonishing amount of detail in the representation of the ships and their rigging, but never at the expense of the compositional framework. In an artistic sense, Bakhuizen added an extra layer of refinement to his paintings which his clientele no doubt recognized and appreciated, especially clients with a preference towards classicizing and classicist art. In our painting the diagonally orientated cloudscape forms an eloquent contrast with the vertical accents of the masts and the square sails of the three-master. Strongly related to our work in terms of composition is Bakhuizen’s Frigate and Other Shipping in a Rough Sea of 1682.
Ludolf Bakhuizen was born in Emden, East Friesland, as the son of Gerard Backhusen and Margarete Janssen. Circa 1650, he went to Amsterdam where he would stay for the rest of his life, making a living as a clerk for the prosperous merchant Gugllielmo Bartolotti van den Heuvel, and as a calligrapher. But soon he turned to making pen drawings of shipping. According to Arnold Houbraken he had studied with Allart van Everdingen and Hendrick Dubbels. His earliest dated oil painting is of 1658. The year before, he had married Lysbeth Lubbers. Her life was cut short and the painter remarried in 1660 with Catharina Bevel from Haarlem. In 1663 he joined the painters’ guild of Amsterdam. The next year he entered his third marriage with Alida Greffet. Testifying to the artist’s highly respectable reputation, the burgomasters of Amsterdam commissioned him to paint a view of the town to be presented to Hugues de Lionne, marquis de Benry, the French foreign minister. In 1680, Anna de Hooghe became Bakhuizen’s fourth wife. After the departure of Willem van de Velde the Elder and Younger to England in 1672, Bakhuizen became the leading marine painter in the country. He was one of the most successful artists of his time and among his patrons were foreign princes such Peter the Great, the Grand-duke of Tuscany and various German princes. Among his many pupil were highly talented painters such as Pieter Coopse, Gerrit Pompe, Hendrick Rietschoeff and Wigerus Vitringa.
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