Bonaventura Peeters was the most celebrated Flemish marine artist of his time. Peeters was working in an artistically abundant period for the Spanish Netherlands, and his birthplace of Antwerp was a creative hub.
There was growing popularity for marine art and seascapes, cultivated by the neighbouring Dutch Republic, which was blossoming artistically during what is known as the Dutch Golden Age. It's possible Peeters spent some time working and gaining inspiration from the Dutch masters.
Examples of his work demonstrate the realism popular in the art of this time. Seaports bow to the majesty of the waves as ships roll into the coastline, sails billowing in the wind. His work also has a predilection to fall into the mannerist style still popular in the Spanish Netherlands. Peeters discards the realistic for the fantastical in some, great waves undulating like the body of a serpent, constricting ships which helplessly suffocate. Turbulent waters toss boats as if they were toys, theatrically illuminated by a gentle light discordant to the tempest roiling below.
This affinity for the sea has led some to speculate Peeters was a sailor. He often depicts scenes from further afield, such as Scandinavia and Russia. His works of the ‘New World’ and the Mediterranean, however, adopt a much more imaginative approach, and it is unlikely Peeters ever travelled to either place.
Before turning his attention to painting, Peeters was engaged in the business of topography. He provided maps for the local government depicting recent battles in the Eighty Years’ War, being waged in the name of freedom from Spanish rule. He also created sketches which would form the basis of Joan Blaeu’s ‘Atlas Maior,’ the largest atlas of its kind. It is clear Peeters was engaged in burgeoning trades at every turn. His appointment as a master of the Guild of Saint Luke, which allowed him to progress professionally as a painter, is demonstrative of his pre-eminence.
The Peeters family’s artistic horizons were as wide as the ocean. Bonaventura’s sister and brothers were also painters, as was his brother’s son. Peeters collaborated with his brother Gillis on a number of works. But it was Bonaventura Peeters who led the way on this artistic seafaring mission, and his works set the precedent. A number are now held in maritime museums and national galleries across Europe, fine examples of Flemish marine art.
Born in Antwerp.
Became a master for the Guild of Saint Luke, Antwerp.
Commissioned to produce maps of the Siege of Kallo and Verrebroek.
Moved to Hoboken.
Died in Hoboken.