1622 – Amsterdam – 1666
View on Egmond
Oil on canvas 64 x 89 cm
Signed lower right: “J Beerstraaten”
Datable c. 1648
Mrs. F. Mes, London
With Rob Kattenburg, Aerdenhout, 1980
As a subject beach scenes entered Dutch art by the early fifteenth century, notably with Jan van Eyck’s famous miniature of Count Jan van Beieren of Holland at Scheveningen Beach. It was, however, not until the second half of the sixteenth century that sandy shores began to appear as a suitable background for the depiction of a host of Biblical themes such as the Miraculous Draught of Fishes. In the course of time the Biblical figures diminished in favour of a greater emphasis of the landscape itself. The earliest instances of topographical renderings of Dutch beaches popped up in drawings and in prints, often immortalizing specific historical events such as stranded cachalots. In prints, especially in cartography, the beach also served as allegorical representation of the element of Water.
For a small country bordering on the sea, beaches held and hold special importance. Beaches as pleasant places to enjoy nature and its charms go back beyond historical memory. But it was only in the 1610s and 1620s that printmakers from Amsterdam and Haarlem first began to issue topographical landscape views for their own right. In tandem with this imagery, the beach also made its debut in pastoral literature, celebrating the beach as an uncorrupted refuge for citizens fleeing the busy life of the city. This was not just a literary concept; the Haarlem-based Karel van Mander relates how his friend the artist Hendrick Goltzius (1558-1617) spent much time strolling, no doubt in the nearby dunes and on the beaches. The latter’s drawings showing the dunes around Haarlem rank among the earliest truthful depictions of the Dutch landscape.
The earliest topographical beach views in paint are by Hendrick Vroom (1563/63-1640), also from Haarlem. His earliest beach scene is of 1607. Other Haarlem marine specialists quickly followed suit, among them Cornelis van Wieringen (c. 1576-1633) and Cornelis Verbeeck (c. 1585-1637 or later). Their views, even though portraying actual places, give a rather naïve and anecdotal account of the activities on the seashore and little attention is paid to a faithful rendition of the atmosphere and landscape.
Atmospheric effects became a chief concern of the great Jan Porcellis (1584-1632), who revolutionized marine and beach painting. His shipwreck scene close to the beach, in the Mauritshuis, of 1631, is both a masterpiece and a milestone in the development of the burgeoning genre. Porcellis’ contribution was immediately acknowledged and adopted by the artist’s peers, in particular Jan van Goyen (1596-1656) and Willem de Vlieger (1600/01 - 1653). Beerstraten’s view on Egmond, which on account of the figures’ dress can be dated to the late 1640s, is strongly indebted to De Vlieger in its calm monumentality and spatial layout.
Beerstraten’s preserved oeuvre consists of paintings and drawings with dated works from 1642 to 1666, the year of his death. He probably started his career painting landscapes before focusing more and more on seascapes and harbour views from the early 1650s onwards. Beerstraten travelled extensively through the Netherlands, documenting his visits to the many towns in still-preserved drawings. He will certainly have visited Egmond, too.
Jan was the son of Abraham Danielsz from Emden. He married in Amsterdam Magdalena Bronckhorst, the daughter of an ebony worker, in 1642. From his first marriage he had eleven children, eight of which still alive at the time of their mother's death, among whom Abraham (born 1643 or early 1644) and Johannes (baptized 8 August 1652) also became painters. Jan remarried shortly after his first wife died in 1665 but he himself died the next summer. Jan lived all his life in Amsterdam, first in the Elandstraat but after he married, he moved to a house near the Haarlemmerpoort, where he had a shop sign hung out with the name ‘De schipbreuk’ (The shipwreck). In 1651 he bought a house opposite the Nieuwe Doolhof on Rozengracht and here hung that same sign. An inventory of his estate drawn up after his death includes painting by fellow painters such as Jan Porcellis, Jan van der Heyden, Philips Wouwerman and Pieter de Hooch.