Hermanus Koekkoek was a highly prolific and respected artist who specialised in dramatic seascapes.
The Netherlands relied heavily on its sea trade and possessed pride in its navy, and since the Dutch Golden Age art had been flooded with works reflecting this affinity. Koekkoek’s work was not just an artistic endeavour but one of national pride.
His seascapes possess the realistic style of the 17th-Century masters. From a carpet of calm, waves roll with vigour as they cut closer to the muddy shore. Ships sit on the horizon and then swell as they approach the foreground.
Koekkoek lived for a time in Dugerdam, a lakeside village outside of Amsterdam which led to the North Sea. The inspiration of such a place can be seen clearly in Koekkoek’s work depicting labourers loading cargo to be transported upriver. Koekkoek also has the tendency to imbue his work with the romantic, as was popular in 19th-century landscapes and seascapes. The scene of a sinking frigate is framed as if it appears upon a stage, the clouds crowding in like a proscenium arch. The sun spotlights in wide beams the flailing craft being dragged down by a swell of water as it tips towards the waves.
An affinity for both art and the ocean ran strong in Koekkoek’s blood. His father, Johannes Hermanus Koekkoek (1778-1851), was also a marine painter and tutored Koekkoek in his early days. This was a tradition Koekkoek carried on when he tutored his four sons.
As well as family values, Koekkoek broadened his teaching horizons to include contemporaries such as Willem Gruyter. He became an esteemed and respected figure of his art, obtaining accolades such as membership to the Royal Academy in Amsterdam. He was also active as an exhibitor, earning a gold medal from the Rotterdam-based Arti et Amicitiae.
Upon his death, Koekkoek had established himself as a key seascape artist of the Netherlands in the 19th-Century. He looked back towards the tremendous legacy of the masters of the Dutch Golden Age but covered vast leagues to expand the horizons of Dutch seascapes.
Born in Middelburg.
Moved to Amsterdam. Studied at the State Academy of Fine Arts.
Married Johanna Maria de Soet.
Became a member of the Royal Academy, Amsterdam.
Became a member of the Rotterdam Society.
Won a gold medal at the Arti et Amicitiae.
Died in Haarlem.