The truth, as Roger de Piles memorably remarked, is that: "There are some curious men who form an idea of a master, by the sight of three or four of his pictures; and who, after this, believe they have a sufficient authority to decide what his manner is; without considering what care the painter took about them, and what age he was of when he drew them. ..... There is none also that had not his beginning, his progress, and his end; that is to say, three manners."      This comes from the English translation of his Art of Painting, first published in 1706.

"..... a scholarly myth can spread 'like a computer virus' until it becomes accepted historical fact."
Helen Morales, TLS, May 15, 2009, p 11

"Harold Osborne proposes that works of art are objects 'adapted to sustain aesthetic contemplation
in a suitably trained and prepared observer' --- obviously a useless definition ."
John Carey, What Good are the Arts ?, 2005, p 15

Anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness.
George Orwell

The Van de Veldes: from Greenwich to Westminster

The true history of British painting in general, let alone British marine painting, is a muddle. The marine genre has been deliberately sidelined by the likes of Horace Walpole (contorted by crypto-Jesuitical snobbery), mentally infirm John Ruskin (pre- and post-Turner), and their acolytes. Marine painting in the British Isles, where nowhere is more than 55 miles from the sea, has been the most popular art genre since at least the mid-seventeenth century, when Britain's 300 year rule of the waves was founded by Cromwell's dauntless General-at-Sea, Robert Blake. It has been a major factor in British art. Monamy was known as Pictor Londini, the London painter.

Without the work done by Robinson on van de Velde, Kingzett on Scott, and Joel on Brooking, it would have been impossible even to begin to sort things out. Cockett's Early Sea Painters is of use, but his hastily rushed out and sadly ill-considered book on Peter Monamy set things back 20 years. What these publications all lack is any real account of the history or chronology of the paintings. There seems hardly any serious attempt to understand the lives of the painters, or which pictures were painted at which stages of their progress or development. There is little or no understanding of the part played by politics and religion, and changes in fashion, patronage or taste. These failings are remedied by Remmelt Daalder's recent study of the van de Veldes.

Below is an excerpt from Van de Velde & Son, Marine Painters, by Remmelt Daalder, 2016.
Highly Recommended. Daalder is a Purveyor of Truth.

It is commonly said that William van de Velde the Younger "painted pictures often with the help of a group of students, working under his supervision at Greenwich". There seems to be no realisation at all, by anyone except Remmelt Daalder, that the van de Veldes were kicked out of Greenwich very soon after the arrival of William III, in 1688, after approximately 15 years working for Charles II and the Duke of York, later James II, both Roman Catholics. The Younger continued painting for nearly 20 years after he left Greenwich. The Elder died four years after leaving Greenwich. and was buried at St James's in Piccadilly. The Younger seems to have had a studio in Covent Garden, and Cornelius a completely separate studio in St Giles.

Refreshing my mind with what the NMM has to say about these early marine painters, I am appalled. The naval history seems to be accurate, but the art history is still as crazy as ever. There seems to be someone there who is determined to ignore all my research and everything I've discovered during the last 35 years. At least two pictures of the Burning of the Soleil Royal at La Hogue in 1692 are credited to William van de Velde, the Elder ! The Elder, born 1611, died in 1693, and it is suggested that these pictures were painted in the last year of his life, when he no longer had a studio in Greenwich. Monamy's painting "still shows the overwhelming influence of the Dutch style" imported by the van de Veldes. "Monamy was self-taught, but may have worked in van de Velde's studio in Greenwich". Monamy was then aged 7. "Monamy was at the height of his career when he was commissioned to paint various scenes from the war of the Austrian Succession, 1740-1748". Garbage. Monamy was not at the height of his career in 1740-1748. Towards 1748 he was "decayed and infirm", and relying on dealers and the sale of prints after his works. Horace Walpole was keen to consign Monamy, at the age of 36, to the dustbin as early as the end of the reign of George I, in 1727. Even Rembrandt went bankrupt.

Sailmaker is described thus: he "was born in Scheveningen in 1633 and emigrated to England when young (actually about 1650, aged 17). He was an early marine painter working in England prior to 1710 (!!!), although he had not benefited from the typical marine artist's apprenticeship. He was, however, among the artistic followers of the van de Veldes, who left Holland for England in 1672 and established a flourishing school of marine painting in London." Sailmaker preceded the van de Veldes in London by at least 20 years. TWENTY YEARS. There is not a vestige of van de Velde influence in any of Sailmaker's pictures, some of which are outstanding in their artistic design.

End of Rant.

.... by industrious valour climb
To ruin the great work of time
And cast the kingdom old
Into another mould

Recent art auction prices. According to The Daily Telegraph, April 11 2016, the following sums were paid for these painters: Bacon $142.4 million; Warhol $105.4 million; Rothko $86.9 million; Pollock $58.4 million; Lichtenstein $95.4 million. What is the top price ever paid for a van de Velde marine ? Or any marine ? Perhaps Lot 33, Christie's, 13 Dec 2000, 1,569,000 ? See The Fresh Breeze, by James Mitchell, 2010, p 12.

See also Time, April 11 2016, p 48; Chinaman's fake Rothko, $8.3 million, sold in 2004, to Domenico De Sole, Chairman of Sotheby's. A sense of unreality descends.

See here for Ruskin on van de Velde, and the Dutch.

The above rant is not concerned with taste, or relative merit, in painting.
I much prefere Vermeer, Rembrandt and Bakhuysen to Freud, Bacon, and Warhol,
let alone Alfred Wallis.

Opinions may only be expressed by those suitably qualified to give opinions.
"The picture's value is the picture's price"

monamy website index
monamy anomalies       monamy problems
à bout de souffle
walpole's anecdotes
hervey & others on robert walpole
peter monamy and british art historians
popery and painting
an explanatory rant
walpole opposition

mail here


© Charles Harrison-Wallace 2017
all rights reserved


George Smiley: "Ever bought a fake picture, Toby ?
Toby Esterhase: "Sold a couple, once !"
George Smiley: "The more you pay for it the less you doubt its authenticity."
Episode 5: 21.21