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Maritime Masterpieces

Sublime seascapes from the 16th to the 21st centuries are displayed in the Maritime Museum since mid-February in the final exhibition in the series ‘Boijmans Next Door’.

Maritiem Museum

Maritime paintings, model ships, drawings, video art and mixed media works

The exhibition showcases 54 paintings by artists, including Hieronymus Bosch, Claes van Wieringen, Willem van de Velde the Younger, Ludolf Bakhuizen, Hendrik Mesdag, Claude Monet, Johan van Mastenbroek, Guido van der Werve and Frank Stella, and oldest Western European model ship from around 1425. A changing selection of 34 drawings by Willem van de Velde the Elder will be exhibited, together with his famous ‘pen paintings’. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen’s most important maritime artworks are united with masterpieces from the collection of the Maritime Museum to provide a colourful and surprising overview of more than 600 years of marine painting.

Six centuries of maritime stories

This special exhibition shows how maritime painting has changed over the centuries. Although the style, technique and materials have changed over the centuries, the remarkable thing is that we can be moved just as much by a centuries-old painting as by a work whose paint is still wet. The maritime world is a lasting source of inspiration and we still feel a deep connection to it.

Marine painting in a nutshell

From the 16th century onwards, artists gradually became interested in subjects other than religion, and began to make paintings in which the landscape is the main motif. Marine painting as a distinct genre emerged in the Netherlands during the Golden Age. Hendrik Vroom, Adam Willarts and Cornelis Claesz van Wieringen were pioneers of the genre and were sublime storytellers. Their paintings depict everyday events, such as the return of ships from overseas and bringing in the day’s catch of fish.

In the course of the 17th century, painters started to immortalise the Netherlands’ flat and empty landscape for the first time: they painted the beauty of the moment and seemed less interested in narrative. In the second half of the 17th century, when Rembrandt and Vermeer created their masterpieces, the maritime painters Ludolf Bakhuizen, Willem van de Velde the Younger and Jan van de Cappelle were also painting their maritime masterpieces.

They succeeded in combining the best of maritime painting into the most beautiful paintings in which atmosphere, poetry, shipping and the landscape come together in a sublime and harmonious fashion. These elements were elaborated upon by maritime painters in the 18th century.

Ludolf Bakhuizen, Storm op de Hollandse kust, 1682, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam
Ludolf Bakhuizen, Storm op de Hollandse kust, 1682, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam
Théodore Gudin, Gezicht op de rede van Vlissingen, 1844, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam
Théodore Gudin, Gezicht op de rede van Vlissingen, 1844, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam

In the 19th century, artists recorded on their canvases the changes brought about by mechanisation, industrialisation and scientific developments: from the first steamship to scientific expeditions to Nova Zembla. Despite these social innovations, painters still clung to the traditions of style, composition and colour palette.

Dutch maritime painters such as Jozef Israëls and Hendrik Mesdag depicted the lives of simple fishermen. French painters such as Paul Signac came to the Netherlands in search of the landscape they knew from Dutch paintings, and were also inspired by new scenes in the port of Rotterdam. In the 20th century, the pride in the innovation and growth of the port of Rotterdam and shipping led to a very diverse range of marine subjects.

We see fewer paintings of ships, wharves or harbours in modern times, yet the maritime world has not completely disappeared from art: just as Paul Signac was inspired by the port of Rotterdam, Frank Stella took inspiration  from Marsamxett Harbour on the island of Malta. They just approached their subjects very differently. Modern artists often use ships or harbours as a metaphor for strength or longing.

Boijmans Next Door

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen’s collection is being dispersed across Rotterdam and Schiedam. Some 500 masterpieces are being displayed in eleven special exhibitions at eight neighbouring institutions under the title ‘Boijmans Next Door’. The exhibitions in these guest venues create encounters between Boijmans’ collection and those of its neighbours. From February 2021, the Maritime Museum is showing a selection of seascapes, and the Wereldmuseum will be showing masterpieces by Jean-Michel Basquiat and Van Eijck. As a result, you don’t have to miss out on seeing the collection during the museum’s renovation. ‘Boijmans Next Door’ has been made possible by Stichting Droom en Daad.

Read more about 'Boijmans Next Door'

Transit Boijmans Van Beuningen

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen has been closed since 2019 for a large-scale renovation and modernisation project. During this Transit period, the museum is showing its world-class collection in venues throughout Rotterdam and around the world. It has entered into a unique partnership with eight neighbouring venues in the city under the name ‘Boijmans Next Door’. Boijmans is also operating internationally, with travelling exhibitions abroad. At the beginning of the 2019/20 school year, the museum began showing works from the collection in local schools as part of ‘Boijmans in the Classroom’. Since the beginning of 2020, Boijmans, Humanitas and other local partners have been active in a former school in Rotterdam Zuid at Hillevliet 90. With Boijmans Hillevliet, the building regains its function as a place for learning and making. In the meantime, the construction of Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen is progressing steadily. The world’s first publicly accessible art storage facility will open in early 2021 and will safely house and display 154,000 works of art.

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Exhibition on location

This exhibition can be seen at the Maritiem Museum Rotterdam, Leuvehaven 1, Rotterdam. It is only possible to visit the museum in a pre-booked time slot. For information about openings hours, admission prizes, etc.:

More information
Exhibition on location

This exhibition is supported by