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Sea Lovers will Delight in Yale Center for British Art Exhibition of Marine Paintings
Willem van de Velde the Younger (1633–1707), English warships heeling in the breeze offshore, date unknown, between 1673–1707, oil on canvas. Photo: Yale Center for British Art, The U Collection.

NEW HAVEN, CT.- Set sail for New Haven this summer as the Yale Center for British Art presents a small but stunning exhibition of marine paintings and watercolors from the glorious Dutch “Golden Age” and by noted British artists. Scenes of famous naval battles, warships, privateers, and historical vessels, including the HMS Bounty, will be on view, as well as works attesting to Great Britain’s maritime capabilities, interest in scientific exploration, and imperial expansion.

Opening May 28, Seascapes: Marine Paintings and Watercolors from the U Collection features approximately twenty works from a recent major gift to the Center that span the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries and attest to the visual and cultural significance of the sea in Britain and the Netherlands. The Center is the only venue for the exhibition.

Marine painters of the Dutch “Golden Age” helped to shape the image of Holland as a seagoing nation, celebrating the trade that brought the country its wealth and the ships that helped to achieve naval and commercial dominance. The U Collection includes a number of works by Dutch artists previously unrepresented in the Center’s collections.

In 1672 the Dutch marine painter Willem van de Velde and his son, also named Willem, emigrated to London at the invitation of King Charles II and were installed in a studio at the Queen’s House in Greenwich, charged with “taking and making off Draughts of Sea Fights.” The paintings and drawings produced by the van de Veldes proved influential for a nascent British school of marine painters, who produced depictions of coastal and river shipping as well as naval battles. Peter Monamy was one of the first British artists to become known primarily as a marine painter and is represented in the exhibition by the characteristically tranquil An English Royal Yacht standing offshore in a calm.

Britain’s rise to naval dominance during the eighteenth century is charted in the works of a number of artists, including French-born Dominic Serres, who became a founding member of the Royal Academy. His drawing The Battle of the Dogger Bank, 5th August, 1781 depicts a strategic victory for the British navy, fought against the Dutch fleet during the American War of Independence. Other aspects of British maritime interest are represented in a very early work by Nicholas Pocock, a merchant sea captain turned artist, depicting a privateer. The watercolor painting HMS Bounty setting sail by Samuel Atkins serves as a reminder of the role of scientific exploration in imperial expansion.

A group of beautiful coastal views in watercolor by a trio of nineteenth-century artists, George Chambers, Edward Duncan, and Thomas Sewell Robins, reflects the aesthetic impact of the romantic movement, particularly the work of J. M.W. Turner, on the depiction of the sea. Despite the long Pax Brittanica (the British Peace) of the nineteenth century, these images often include warships as well as fi shing vessels, a reminder of Britain’s continuing dependence on its maritime capabilities.

Yale Center for British Art | George Chambers | Edward Duncan | Thomas Sewell Robins | J. M.W. Turner | Willem van de Velde the Younger | Adam Silo |

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