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Ludolf Bakhuizen, A Beach Scene with Fishermen

Key facts
Full title A Beach Scene with Fishermen
Artist Ludolf Bakhuizen
Artist dates 1630/1 - 1708
Date made about 1665
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 34.2 × 48.5 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Bought, 1871
Inventory number NG818
Location Room 19
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
A Beach Scene with Fishermen
Ludolf Bakhuizen

A small fishing boat tosses on a choppy sea close to the shore, its crew energetically poling their vessel away from the clinging shingle. High puffy clouds soar and spiral in a bright sky, the surf below running fast on to the beach and ebbing to leave wet sand behind.

Once a calligrapher, Bakhuizen paints the small, white-topped waves with the same feeling for arcs and coils as he might have had for decorating elegant writing. They roll in to the shore in scumbled curves of white over the deeper blues and greys that give his sea real depth and wetness.

In this picture painted early in his career, Bakhuizen hints at the direction his later work will take: turbulent, terrifying seas in which he shows warships and other vessels bucking in huge waves towards high cliffs that can endanger them – as in An English Vessel and a Man-of-war in a Rough Sea off a Coast with Tall Cliffs, also in the National Gallery.

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