This exhibition on marine painting from the Golden Age of Dutch culture in the 17th century centres on spectacular works by the main representatives of the genre Ludolf Backhuysen, Jan Porcellis, Willem van de Velde (the Elder and the Younger) and Simon de Vliegher. In addition to these impressive large-scale seascapes, the display includes paintings and drawings by all the leading marine painters of the time. To this day, these images evoke a sense of freedom, independence and adventure, but also a mood of contemplation and tranquillity. As the economic and political fate of the Dutch people in the Golden Age was closely tied to the sea, the main subject of these artworks are ships with billowing sails that are visible from afar, but painstakingly detailed paintings of calmer waters also feature.
Besides demonstrating the virtuosity of their creators, these paintings frequently appear to document specific historical, topographical or meteorological events. The impression of maritime life and seafaring that is deliberately conveyed in such works never actually existed in this form, however, which opens up a wide range of possible readings with regard to different spheres of knowledge at that time. On the one hand, the artworks on show in the exhibition reveal the powerful influence and wealth of the Dutch navy in the 17th century; on the other, they invite us to consider more complex interpretations: the ship as a metaphor for life, a symbol of nationhood and the exploration of distant lands, as well as a demonstration of proud foreign policy and shrewd trade policy. At the same time, however, the exhibition draws our attention to the painterly qualities of each respective artwork.
Sailing Under Full Canvas brings together around 80 masterpieces drawn from international collections and the holdings of the Hamburger Kunsthalle
. The exhibition has been organised in cooperation with the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich/London, which has generously contributed a number of major works.