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Allaert van Everdin­gen, Dutch, 1621-1675: Rocky Coast with Boats on a Rough Sea, c. 1650 

Allart van Everdin­gen trav­eled to Scan­di­navia, like­ly early in his career around 1644, and drew views in Nor­way and Swe­den. Vari­a­tions of his Nordic scenes fea­tured promi­nent­ly in the draw­ings, etch­ings, and paint­ings that he com­plet­ed after his return. This sheet, although topo­graph­i­cal­ly like the North Sea, is more like­ly a stu­dio-gen­er­at­ed com­po­si­tion cre­at­ed from the artist’s mind. As rough seas chal­lenge the fish­er­men in their boats, fig­ures on shore watch calm­ly and per­form their duties, pre­sent­ing a curi­ous lim­i­nal moment where the day could either con­clude safe­ly or end in disaster.

One of the endur­ing leg­ends about Allaert van Everdin­gen, com­ing from Arnold Houbrak­en (1660 – 1719), is that a dan­ger­ous storm he expe­ri­enced on a trip to the Baltic Sea land­ed him will­ing or not” on the coast of Nor­way.1

The event was per­haps not quite the ship­wreck” reit­er­at­ed by later com­men­ta­tors, but the story nev­er­the­less served as the cen­tral piece of bio­graph­i­cal drama, and per­haps even as a bit of self-fash­ion­ing by the artist him­self, for he is now hailed as the first painter of the Scan­di­na­vian land­scape.2

That he actu­al­ly vis­it­ed Nordic coun­tries seems beyond doubt.3

His draw­ings clear­ly show places such as Risør in Nor­way, then an impor­tant Dutch trad­ing port for tim­ber; as well as Troll­hät­ten and Möl­ndal in Swe­den, where he wit­nessed and drew some of the region’s more dra­mat­ic water­falls. He prob­a­bly made the trip early in his career, around 1644.4

Back in the Nether­lands, Van Everdin­gen spent the rest of his career design­ing vari­a­tions of his Nordic-inspired scenery in his paint­ings, draw­ings, and etch­ings. Impos­ing rocky out­crops with an almost sur­re­al mono­lith­ic char­ac­ter, such as the one fea­tured in the present work, appear in many of his land­scapes, whether coastal or set more inland.5

They might at first glance appear to be topo­graph­i­cal­ly Scan­di­na­vian in essence, and it is true that Van Everdin­gen like­ly encoun­tered a num­ber of sim­i­lar coasts dur­ing his voy­age around the North Sea. As much or more weight should be given, how­ev­er, to an artis­tic tra­di­tion he inher­it­ed from a pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion of artists, such as his first teacher Roe­lant Sav­ery (1576 – 1639), who had also taken a great inter­est in exot­ic rock for­ma­tions, though inspired by his trav­els in Bohemia and the Alps rather than any coastal loca­tion Fig. 47.1.6

Roelant Savery, Rock Outcrop
Fig. 47.1

Roe­lant Sav­ery, Rock Out­crop, 1606 – 07. Black, white, and red chalk, pas­tels in ocher and blue, on gray-brown paper, 441 × 346 mm. Ham­burg, Ham­burg­er Kun­sthalle, inv. no. 22488.

Other artists such as Simon de Vlieger (1600 – 1653) would freely invent sim­i­lar coastal mono­liths despite hav­ing never seen such for­ma­tions in per­son as far as we know Fig. 47.2.7

Simon de Vlieger, Coastal Scene with Rock Formation
Fig. 47.2

Simon de Vlieger, Coastal Scene with Rock For­ma­tion, before 1653. Black chalk and gray wash over graphite on paper, 191 × 307 mm. Cam­bridge, Fitzwilliam Muse­um, inv. no. PD.864 – 1963.

Van Everdin­gen’s trav­els informed and refi ned his own dis­tinc­tive land­scape style, but despite what­ev­er topo­graph­ic lit­er­al­ness he employed on occa­sion, the stronger impulse was to imag­i­na­tive­ly craft land­scape motifs in the mode of what Joaneath Spicer called the pic­to­r­i­al vocab­u­lary of oth­er­ness.” 8

The present work gives every appear­ance of being a stu­dio-gen­er­at­ed com­po­si­tion made whol­ly from the imag­i­na­tion despite the artist’s inten­tion to impart a Nordic char­ac­ter to the coast.

The rough seas bat­tled by the fish­er­men in their boats here seem more the result of a strong gale than a true storm. The fig­ures on the shore go about their busi­ness or watch calm­ly as the fish­er­men con­tend with a strong lee­ward wind that appears to threat­en their safe­ty, or at least proves a chal­lenge to han­dle. In his study of Dutch tem­pest and ship­wreck imagery, Lawrence Goed­de offered a range of metaphor­ic inter­pre­ta­tions for this sort of inter­me­di­ate level of tur­moil, in which we are con­front­ed with nei­ther com­plete dis­as­ter nor calm seas but rather a threat­en­ing lee shore,” a reminder, for exam­ple, that the dan­gers of life are ever-present.9

It is dif­fi­cult to say if Van Everdin­gen intend­ed any­thing other than an inten­si­fied image of fish­er­men han­dling one of the nor­mal chal­lenges of their pro­fes­sion, or per­haps that the for­eign-seem­ing locale offered up addi­tion­al challenges.

Van Everdin­gen’s drawn oeu­vre, while vast, has long resist­ed the devel­op­ment of a chrono­log­i­cal frame­work based on style or other fac­tors, a prob­lem exac­er­bat­ed by the fact that he almost never dated his draw­ings, and rarely his paint­ings.10

Most of Van Everdin­gen’s marine paint­ings are early works, but draw­ings with marine sub­jects occu­pied him through­out his career.11

The Peck draw­ing might well be a later work from around 1670, as sug­gest­ed in the notes of its ear­li­est known owner, Sybrand Feita­ma (who acquired it between 1710 and 1712), though his rea­sons for assign­ing it this date are unknown.

End Notes

  1. Houbrak­en 1718 – 21, vol. 2, 95 – 96.

  2. Blanc 2016, 15.

  3. For the evi­dence and its his­to­ri­og­ra­phy, see Davies 1978, 17 – 27; Davies 2001, 26 – 27, and Alk­maar 2021. See also Sidén 2012 for an overview of Van Everdin­gen’s activ­i­ties in Swe­den, includ­ing the Trip commission.

  4. See Davies 2007, 11. The year 1644 appears on a copy by Jan de Bei­jer (1703 – 1780) of one of Van Everdin­gen’s draw­ings of Risør, Nor­way, pro­vid­ing the only date that can be linked to the trip.

  5. While his fre­quent reuse of the motif makes a com­pre­hen­sive list­ing of draw­ings unwieldy, for some fair­ly dra­mat­ic exam­ples, see Davies 2007, no. 8 (Haar­lem, Teylers Muse­um; see Plomp 1997, no. 140); no. 112 (Vien­na, Alberti­na; see New York & Fort Worth 1995, no. 71); and no. 159 (Cleve­land, Cleve­land Muse­um of Art; see Glaub­inger 1982).

  6. For Sav­ery’s inter­est in rock for­ma­tions, see Spicer 1997, 28 – 31. It also appears that Van Everdin­gen owned some of Sav­ery’s Tyrolean land­scape draw­ings and even reworked them; see Davies 2001, 78 – 80, 84 – 85; and Davies 2001, 12. For fur­ther dis­cus­sion of Van Everdin­gen’s rock motifs, see Glaub­inger 1982.

  7. For De Vlieger’s rocky coastal land­scapes, and Sav­ery’s impact, see Van Eeghen 2011, 210 – 12.

  8. Spicer 1997.

  9. Goed­de 1989, 180 – 85. Goed­de also shows how preva­lent the motif of a ship approach­ing threat­en­ing rocks was in the emblem tra­di­tion (idem, 183 – 85) in the sev­en­teenth and early eigh­teenth cen­turies. For Goed­de’s ideas in rela­tion to Van Everdin­gen’s seascape paint­ings, see Davies 2013, 96 – 97.

  10. For this prob­lem, see Davies 2007, 10 – 11, 36 – 47.

  11. Davies 1978, 75.