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Paul Jean Clays, Ships lying near Dordrecht

Key facts
Full title Ships lying near Dordrecht
Artist Paul Jean Clays
Artist dates 1819 - 1900
Date made 1870
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 75 × 110.2 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by J.M. Parsons, 1870
Inventory number NG815
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Ships lying near Dordrecht
Paul Jean Clays

Grey clouds threaten the sailing boats in this picture. They gather from away to the left, moving swiftly in contrast to the seemingly motionless vessels below. An angry sun picks up the white sails and – in the far distance – the sails of a windmill, making them glow. There are reflections in the water, but a stiff breeze is already stirring, ruffling them and smudging them a murky grey brown. One boat – a flat-bottomed transport vessel suitable for inshore sailing – lowers its sails ready for the storm.

Clays was one of the most distinguished Belgian marine painters of his generation. Early in his career he abandoned the violent dramas of towering seas and shipwrecks favoured by the generation of marine artists working immediately before him. He chose instead calm waters and translucent light, very much in the manner of seventeenth-century Dutch marine painters.

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