On the left the horizon line dissolves into a vast becalmed sea, while fishermen ply their trade on the right. De Vlieger influenced later marine painters by working with a limited tonal range to achieve precisely calibrated effects of light in the sky and water. His observations of northern light established him as the master of a particularly local landscape, affirmed by the Dutch flag fluttering above the boat on the right.
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Artist:Simon de Vlieger (Dutch, Rotterdam (?) ca. 1600/1601–1653 Weesp)
Medium:Oil on wood
Dimensions:14 3/4 x 17 1/2 in. (37.5 x 44.5 cm)
Credit Line:Rogers Fund, 1906
Although there is no trace of a signature on this panel, it is certainly autograph, and may be dated to after 1640 (perhaps about 1645–50) on the basis of its simple but carefully poised composition, the expansive sky, and restricted palette, which consists entirely of pale blues and grays, except for the light brown sail and, above, the Dutch flag. The play of light in the slightly choppy water, the reflections of the boats, and the minimally described but convincing recession to the horizon are typical of the artist's maturity.
On the right, two kaags (cargo vessels used mainly on inland waterways) are tied up at a mooring. A small skiff with two men floats behind them, and to the right is a weyschuit (an open fishing boat) with two men and a large fish basket on board. One man struggles to haul in another basket (they were used to store the day's catch in the water); other baskets are in the nearest kaag and by its bow in the water. To the left in the distance is another fishing boat and, much farther away, a square-rigged ship like a fluyt (which, like the kaag, was used for both cargo and fishing). The sails of two other vessels are visible in the center background and help create the impressive effect of distance.
The horizon line was made with a straightedge and is slightly incised into the wood panel. This is an unusual feature, but not entirely unexpected in the case of De Vlieger, whose use of basic linear perspective schemes to place ships at different distances is known from his sheet of ten demonstration drawings in the British Museum.
[2016; adapted from Liedtke 2007]
[Frederik Müller, Amsterdam, until 1906; sold to The Met]
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Hudson-Fulton Celebration," September–November 1909, no. 141.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 18, 2007–January 6, 2008, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "In Praise of Painting: Dutch Masterpieces at The Met," October 16, 2018–October 4, 2020, no catalogue.
Roger Fry. Letter to his wife, Helen Fry. November 12, 1906 [published in Ref. Sutton 1972, vol. 1, letter no. 203, p. 273].
Wilhelm R. Valentiner. The Hudson-Fulton Celebration: Catalogue of an Exhibition Held in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1909, vol. 1, p. 142, no. 141, ill. opp. p. 142.
Joseph Breck. "L'art hollandais à l'exposition Hudson-Fulton à New York." L'art flamand & hollandais 13, no. 2 (1910), p. 60 [published in Dutch in Onze Kunst 17 (February 1910), pp. 45–46].
Josephine L. Allen and Elizabeth E. Gardner. A Concise Catalogue of the European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1954, p. 100.
Denys Sutton, ed. Letters of Roger Fry. New York, 1972, vol. 1, p. 273 n. 2 to letter 203 (November 12, 1906).
Frances Spalding. Roger Fry: Art and Life. Berkeley, 1980, p. 94.
John Pope-Hennessy. "Roger Fry and The Metropolitan Museum of Art." Oxford, China, and Italy: Writings in Honour of Sir Harold Acton on his Eightieth Birthday. Ed. Edward Chaney and Neil Ritchie. London, 1984, p. 234.
Peter C. Sutton. A Guide to Dutch Art in America. Grand Rapids, Mich., 1986, p. 191.
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 310, ill.
Esmée Quodbach. "The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 65 (Summer 2007), pp. 20, 28, fig. 19 (color).
Walter Liedtke. Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, vol. 2, pp. 918–20, no. 211, colorpl. 211, states that it "may be dated to after 1640 (perhaps about 1645–50)".
Caroline Elam. Roger Fry and Italian Art. London, 2019, p. 46.
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