The Van de Veldes at Greenwich

I’ve long had a soft spot for the Age of Sail, and anyone who ventures into that ocean will soon come across the work of the Netherlandish artists, the van de Veldes. The elder Willem van de Velde was born in Leiden in 1611, the son of a Flemish barge master. Self-taught, he often accompanied his father to sea, and by the 1640s he was known for his sketches and ink drawings of naval subjects, many of which can be seen at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. He made the ink on canvas painting below as the official artist of the Dutch fleet during the Anglo-Dutch war in 1666, and he was also one of the artists present at the Four Days’ battle which followed.

The court-martial on board the ‘De Zeven Provinciën‘, the ship of Admiral Michiel Adriaensz de Ruyter, 10 June 1666, prior to the Four-Days battle, an episode from the Second Anglo-Dutch War. (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam)

Willem van de Velde II was the son of Willem van de Velde the Elder, and the brother of Adriaen van de Velde, a landscape painter. He was born in Amsterdam in 1633, and later studied under his father and the marine artist, Simon de Vlieger. He soon earned a reputation for the accuracy and precision of his paintings of ships and seascapes. The instability caused by the French invasion of 1672 forced him and his father to leave for England. They were soon employed by King Charles II, and installed in a studio in the Queen’s House in Greenwich, from which they produced many works, often commissioned by the King himself.

Dutch Ships on a Calm Sea, by Willem van de Velde the Younger, c. 1665. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. (Photo from 11 March 2019)

I have fond memories of viewing the maritime art and artifacts at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam in 2019. What I didn’t know at the time was that it is The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England that has the world’s largest collection of works by the Van de Veldes. Now, knowing the history of the family, I can see why. On the 2 March 2023, The Van de Veldes: Greenwich, Art and the Sea exhibit opened in the Queens House, now part of the Royal Museums at Greenwich. This a great opportunity for those who are in the area to see, for free, some of the greatest maritime art ever produced.

The above image (without the frame) makes a great wallpaper for a desktop computer. It can be downloaded for free (after signing up for a Rijksstudio) at

2 thoughts on “The Van de Veldes at Greenwich

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  1. Yes, so talented. I’m also somewhat amazed that they were at one time painters for the Dutch fleet, and the next they are working for the enemy in England! Allegiances changed quickly in those days.


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