Sailing Boats in Rough Sea off Dutch Coast, Oil on canvas, 1640

With the rise of a secular society in the 17th century, Dutch trade, science, military and art became among the most acclaimed in the world, directly resulting from the development of the earliest multinational corporations such as the East India Trade Company. Dominating trade between Europe and Asia, Holland became the epicenter of the global market. These triumphs, coupled with global artistic traditions, transformed the Dutch art world, creating a distinct separation from the religious subject matter found in Flemish painting. The secular influence on the Dutch government, coupled with the importance of trade, made Holland one of the wealthiest countries in Europe. Thus, it is not surprising that the Dutch turned to the sea as a dominant subject for their paintings.

In this work from 1640, entitled Sailing Boats in Rough Sea off Dutch Coast, Dutch Baroque artist Abraham Vanbeyeren provides a romantic view of the sea emphasizing man’s struggle against the power of nature, and effectively forms a classic Dutch seascape. Little recognized in his day, Vanbeyeren is now considered one of the most important painters of still lifes; in particular, still lifes of fish and luxurious objects. This work, like others of his from the 1640s, shows a renewed interest in his early studies of maritime settings.