Dutch ships at sea

Jan van Os
Middelharnis 1744 – 1808 The Hague
A Pair of Marines; A Calm and a Storm
Both oil on panel 30 x 37,5 cm
The calm signed on a piece of driftwood lower left: ‘J:Van Os f.’

Private collection
Sale Stockholm (Bukowskis), 7 June 2018, lot 457

Jan van Os first trained with the Dordrecht master Aert Schouman (1710-1792) and then, in 1773, became a member of the artists’ confraternity Pictura in The Hague. Van Os is currently known as the most prominent Dutch still life and marine artist of his generation. With his ornate and lush flower and fruit still lifes Van Os closely adheres
to Jan van Huysum (1682-1749). His marines are modelled on those by Ludolf Backhuysen (1630-1708) while also incorporating influence by Willem van de Velde the Younger (1633-1707) and Jan van de Cappelle (1626-1679).

This splendid pair is a beautiful example of Van Os’s marine art. Interestingly, Van Os painted the Calm entirely in the manner of Van de Velde, who is still appreciated for his exquisite and evocatively tranquil coastal views, whilst for his sweeping storm scene he primarily adopted Backhuysen’s pictorial language with its penchant for dramatic chiaroscuro. In particular wonderfully captured here is the translucency of the sharply lit waves, so typical for Backhuysen.

Both scenes are masterfully composed and, indeed, constitute a worthy homage to the great marine artists of the preceding century, whose heir Van Os was. Both marines also display Van Os’s love for detail. Great care was lavished on an accurate and fine depiction of the ships’ rigging. Van Os was also interested in a faithful rendering of the
weather conditions. His tonal palette is subtle and adds a poetic note.

Few of Van Os’s marines are dated which hampers reconstructing a chronology for this part of the artist’s oeuvre. Hence, it is also impossible to give a precise date for our charming pair of well-kept panels.