Monamy 65 x 54 Signed

"Other Famous Masters"

Backhuysen, signed with monogram, 150 x 225 cm; circa 1685-1690
from Ludolf Backhuysen, by Gerlinde de Beer, 2002

Dr Gerlinde de Beer has a comment on the relationship between Backhuysen and van de Velde which is quoted here. The van de Veldes can be seen as schiffbautechnisch-dokumentarisch, and Backhuysen as artistic-dramatic. The former are the masters of the marine calm, and the latter is the master of the stormblast and the tempest-scape. She underplays the perceived conflict between these two styles, however.

Her straightforward compartmentalization of the two approaches clarifies thinking on the slow decline of the van de Velde "studio"; and goes some way to explaining Michael Robinson's reluctance to admit the storm scenes fully into the van de Velde canon, as well as their apparent increasing proliferation from about the time of the death of the Elder in 1693. This date, I suggest, marks the final exit of the van de Veldes from their eyrie of royal grace and favour: from then on they were competing in a wider, colder marketplace. The Younger's attention was diverted to the performances of other famous masters, and the need for cost-effective production became increasingly acute. The last 14 years of his career, until his death in 1707, must have grown daily harder.

Monamy's "stormy sensibility" admittedly pales in comparison with the tremendous scene depicted by Dubbels, below. This painting appeared some twenty years before Monamy was born. As Nash remarks "These images ..... have behind them long traditions." They express the same sensations that Turner was to express, and it is rather ludicrous to draw a line from van de Velde to Turner. It makes greater sense to draw a line from Dubbels or Backhuysen to Turner, via Monamy, who introduces those elements which are characteristically English --- the colouring and close attention to weather and sunlight.

While on the topic of colouring it is amusing to note de Beer's comment on one of Archibald's captions to a painting incorrectly ascribed to Backhuysen (plate 117, Dictionary of Sea Painters, 1980): "A painting from the artist's early 'black' period". As she bluntly points out: "Backhuysen hatte nie eine 'schwarze Periode'".

Dubbels 122 x 175 cm; circa 1657-1660; Nationalmuseum, Stockholm
from Hendrik J.Dubbels, by Ulrike Middendorf, 1989

'T geweld der woesten Zee,
door stormen wild gedreven
verquist veel schad en goed
en brengt er veel om't leven


Marcus Larson, 1825-1864, 40 x 52 cm; Storm on the Coast of Bohuslän; 1857
Nationalmuseum, Stockholm

It has been observed that "folk art is more conceptual than optical". See here. John Wilmerding, author of American Marine Painting, is quoted as saying that "The interest is not in observed but in felt reality." Because Vertue reported that Monamy knew what he was doing when he painted "all the tackles ropes & sails &c", the sheepish flock has commended Monamy for his reputed "meticulous accuracy", and are also remotely aware that the van de Veldes excelled in the schiffbautechnisch-dokumentarisch dimension of marine art. Had these myopics taken the trouble objectively to inspect Monamy's paintings, however, they might have realised that his fame was founded equally on other qualities. He did, indeed, know what he was painting, but for optical observation he made cavalier use of what was the equivalent to him of photography, and concentrated on conveying the "felt reality" of his subjects. This, in fact, is "art"; the former is "craft".

etching 5 x 7; Claude Lorrain, 1600-1682; see Whiteley, 1998, p 110.

drawing by Matthew Bril, 1550-1583/4. From Visions of the Sea, by Margarita Russell; p 95.

In Visions of the Sea: Hendrick C. Vroom and the Origins of Dutch Marine Painting, 1983, Margarita Russell puts the case for Vroom, 1566-1640, as the true founder of northern marine painting. She remarks that "English patronage played a significant part in ensuring his success, and throughout his career he continued to commemorate in painting the naval history of both England and the Netherlands." Note, again, that Vroom was born in 1566: ie a full century before the van de Veldes arrived in England. Among even earlier painters of marine subjects she draws attention to the brothers Matthew and Paul Bril.

Jonah and the Whale, 1589, by Paul Bril, 1554-1626. From Visions of the Sea, by Margarita Russell; p 22

"other famous masters" two
the sailor's fate: one       the sailor's fate: two
selection of storms
claude lorrain & thomas baston
artistic range       marine painters
monamy website index


© Charles Harrison Wallace 2003
all rights reserved