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In the seventeenth century the Dutch Republic earned a reputation as a formidable seafaring nation. They successfully fought for their independence from Spain on land and at sea in a lengthy eighty-year war which ended in 1648. Not only did they build impressive warships, but also large merchant vessels and sailing boats that aided their exploration of faraway places such as Asia, Africa and America. With these new trade routes came a booming economy that encouraged innovations in the arts and sciences, leading to the era known as the Dutch Golden Age.

The seascape emerged as a new subject in painting in the second half of the sixteenth century. The sea had previously been depicted most notably in illuminated manuscripts, tapestries and paintings but only as a setting for mythological and religious narratives. Dutch and Flemish artists such as Hendrick Vroom, Jan Porcellis, the Willem van de Veldes and Ludolf Backhuysen became specialist marine painters, whose depictions of calm and stormy seas, dramatic naval battles, distant lands and harbours served patriotic and political agendas whilst also becoming records of everyday life.

The earliest seascapes: Vroom, Porcellis and Van Wieringen›