The other van de Velde
Enjoys the first substantial gathering of works by the Dutch draughtsman and landscape painter and considers some conundrums about his life and career
The colouring of his trees, his herbage and plants, is fresh and juicy; and touched with as much spirit as delicacy; his skies are brilliant and clear; and his pictures exhibit a sparkling glow of sunshine which is almost peculiar to himself. his animals, particularly the cows, sheep and goats, are designed with a correctness and perfection that has never been surpassed. his pictures are held in the highest estimation, and are somewhat scarce.’ Thus wrote J. R. hobbes in his 1849 The Picture Collector’s Manual, but of which Dutch master was he writing?
In Britain, at least, were this question answered with the name van de Velde, the reaction even of most connoisseurs would be: ‘But surely, the van de Veldes were marine painters?’ however, this was Adriaen van de Velde (1636– 72), younger son and brother of the two Willems who so vividly painted the Anglo-dutch naval wars, first from one side and then from the other, and died in London and Greenwich after many years in england.
Whether Adriaen accompanied them, we cannot tell, as he died just before their emigration, but it is unlikely. The defection of the Willems to an enemy country is usually regarded as a matter of economics, as english patronage was stronger at that point, but reli- gion may also have come into it: there are indications that the younger Willem had converted to Catholicism, as had Adriaen, and the Catholic Duke of York was a major maritime patron.
however, having mastered the family sub-genre of beach scenes at a remarkably young age, Adriaen turned away from the sea and made himself perhaps the foremost landscape painter of his generation. In this, the Dutch market offered him more than the english. It was not until after his death that the english took him to their hearts, where he remained for 150 years.
his later eclipse is more difficult to understand and it is quite extraordinary that the current show at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, which has come from the Rijksmuseum, represents the first time ‘that a substantial body of his work has been assembled’, in the words of the museums’ directors.
There is a further conundrum about Adriaen, the painter who was
‘It was not until after his death that the English took him to their hearts
Van de Velde’s early masterpiece The Beach at Scheveningen (1658) excels for its detail picked out in the clean light