The Dutch rose to greatness from the riches of the sea. Dutch-designed cargo ships revolutionized marine transport and helped Dutch traders become the leaders of maritime commerce, while Dutch shipyards produced warships that made the Admiralty a powerful naval force. The water, central to their economic and naval prosperity, was also a source of pleasure and enjoyment for the Dutch. In the warm summer months, dune-covered beaches offered scenic vistas, while in the winter, frozen canals provided a place for people of all ages to skate, play, and enjoy the outdoors. Within this nation of merchants, engineers, sailors, and skaters, it is no wonder marine paintings became a favorite subject for artists and collectors alike.
This exhibition celebrates the essential relationship the Dutch had with water through nearly 50 paintings, drawings, prints, rare books, and ship models. Drawn largely from the National Gallery of Art’s collection, the exhibition features works by artists such as Jan van Goyen, Jacob van Ruisdael, Aelbert Cuyp, and Willem van de Velde the Younger. Scenes range from quiet harbor views, frozen canals, and calm seas to dramatic shipwrecks and fierce naval battles, revealing the full range of marine art during the Dutch Golden Age.