The seascapes of Ludolf Bakhuizen (also referred to in English literature as Backhuisen, Backhuysen and Bakhuysen) are often characterized by a dramatic atmosphere, as can be seen in this painting, a gallery-quality example of this important Dutch painter’s oeuvre. In this battle with turbulent waves one can spot three ships amongst the cliffs, bows tilting and sails billowing under the force of the hurricane. Dutch flags wave from the two-mast and three-mast schooners in the foreground. In the background on the right a lighthouse stands above the cliffs, which threaten to tear the boats to pieces at any moment. In this dramatic scene Bakhuizen made excellent use of the contrast of light and dark: the dark sky in the right section, the sky in the middle, and waves illuminated with beautiful white light. The alternating sections – dark waves in the foreground, clearly illuminated waves in the center – create the illusion of depth. The open space to the left with a ship in the background further amplifies this effect.
Although Ludolf Bakhuizen also painted other subjects and created a large number of drawings, he is mainly viewed as a painter of large, stormy seascapes, such as Ships in Distress off a Rocky Coast (1667, National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.). Before he started painting, he worked as a clerk and calligrapher, initially in his native Emden and later in Amsterdam. His first known painting dates from approximately 1658. It is believed his teachers were Allart van Everdingen and Hendrick Dubbels. Willem van de Velde the Younger also had a strong influence on him and was his rival, but after he and his father emigrated to England (late 1672/early 1673), Bakhuizen became one of the leading painters of seascapes and battle scenes, both historical and imaginary. His most important paintings include View of Amsterdam with Ships on the IJ (1665, Louvre, Paris), which was commissioned by the City Council of Amsterdam and given to the French statesman Hugues de Lionne, and his monumental stormy scenes hanging at the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels and at the National Maritime Museum in London. His works were extremely popular, with clientele including numerous emperors and princesses (Peter the Great of Russia and later Frederick the Great of Prussia owned some of his paintings).
Consulted with PhDr. Hana Seifertová.