Oil on canvas: 72 x 107 cm
Monnogrammed and dated ‘VG 1641’ (lower left)
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A characteristic work from the mature work of Jan van Goyen, this detailed depiction of the beach at Scheveningen on the North Sea coast near The Hague shows the freshly caught fish being carried from the water in the background to the traders on the beach in the left foreground, who are selling the fresh catch. The church Oude Kerk of Scheveningen can be seen in the background. Like many municipalities along the Dutch North Sea coast, Scheveningen had no harbor due to its long, flat beach and the catch would be brought to the shore with smaller boats from the sea. Jan van Goyen demonstrates this to the viewer in this characteristic everyday scene from the 17th century.
Jan van Goyen, who moved to The Hague in 1632 with his wife and daughters from his native city of Leiden, depicted the beach at Scheveningen multiple times in the 1640s, for example in a very similar depiction dated 1642 in the Instituut Collectie Nederland in Amsterdam (inv. NK 1508, see Beck 1973, no. 939). From the 1640s, Jan van Goyen progressively reduced his palette and by the early 1650s he was almost exclusively painting small-format monochrome scenes.
Born on January 13, 1596, Jan Josephsz van Goyen began training as an artist in his native city of Leiden at the early age of ten. The series of teachers with whom he studied included, according to Orlers’ near-contemporary account, Isaac van Swanenburgh (c. 1537–1614). Orlers also says that Van Goyen spent a year in France before going to Haarlem, where he is known to have been a student of Esaias van de Velde I (Dutch, 1587 – 1630) in 1617. His early works closely resemble those of Van de Velde.
By 1618 Van Goyen had returned to Leiden, where that same year he married Annetje Willemsdr van Raelst. His name occurs frequently in Leiden documents between 1625 and 1632. In 1625 he bought a house on the Sint Peterskerkstraat, which he sold in 1629 to the marine painter Jan Porcellis (c. 1584–1632). Probably in the summer of 1632 he moved to The Hague, becoming a citizen two years later. Although he also worked in Haarlem in 1634, at the house of Salomon van Ruysdael’s brother Isaack (1599–1677), he is thereafter recorded only in The Hague. He bought a house there on the Wagenstraat in 1635 and built another the following year on the Dunne Bierkade, where Paulus Potter (Dutch, 1625 – 1654) is known to have lived from 1649 to 1652. Although a prolific and successful painter, Van Goyen engaged throughout his life in various business ventures, usually unsuccessfully; these included art dealing, auction sales, and speculation in real estate and tulip bulbs.
During the 1630s, Van Goyen, along with the Haarlem artists Pieter Molijn (Dutch, 1595 – 1661) and Salomon van Ruysdael (Dutch, c. 1602 – 1670), developed a new approach to the representation of landscape that focused on local subjects and utilized a tonal palette, initiating what has come to be recognized as the golden age of Dutch landscape painting. Van Goyen was a highly respected figure in the artistic community of The Hague. In 1638 and 1640 he was chosen to be hoofdman of the painters’ guild, and received further official recognition in 1651, when he was commissioned to paint a panoramic view of the city for the burgomaster’s room in the Town Hall. In 1649 two of his daughters were married to artists, Margaretha to Jan Steen (Dutch, 1625/1626 – 1679) and Maria to the still-life painter Jacques de Claeuw (c. 1620–1670 or after).