Hermanus KoekkoekAs you can see Hermanus was one of those rare marine painters that knew how to marry a ship and the sea. Many painters just plonk the vessel on top of the water as if the sea were a slab of concrete but Hermanus was a master in showing how a ship lived in a seaway.

The vessel here depicted is one of those round bottomed, side-keeled hulls that over the centuries the Dutch shipwrights evolved to adapt to their local seas. More than fifty names are needed to describe the particulars of each specialised hull and rig. This one is a ‘tjalk’ and because of its built up stern construction she is called a ‘hektjalk’ and was most probably built in Friesland, a watery province in the north of the Netherlands. ‘Hek’ means barrier and these ships were built this way to protect the helmsman from seas when running before the wind. These 100-120 tons vessels were manned by a skipper and one crewman who was called a boy even if he was fifty years old and these two had to know what they were doing to handle those vast cotton or hemp sails. Judging by the shadow on the sails this tjalk is steering a south-south westerly course into an upcoming westerly gale, probably on the way from Friesland to Amsterdam on the Dutch sea, the Zuiderzee. The signature in the right hand corner is difficult to make out, the H and K can be seen with a good light and the date appears to be 1872. It appears that art dealers around the beginning of the 20th century tried to sell these excellent paintings as 18th cent. tableaux, as 19th cent. artwork was then not appreciated and therefore they partially obliterated the signature. Who knows, art dealers have not been the most honest people I’ve met in my life.

Have a good look how he painted the living sea in the detail; I don’t know any painter of past ages who mastered this technique. A vague brush stroke of reflected light on the rounding of the stern makes the ship alive. There has been a small repair in the canvas behind the leech of the mainsail and it’s also true that this painting should be seen by a restaurer. This scene is one of Hermanus’ more important works as you can see by the dimensions; 105×70 cm. and with the frame 140x 105cm. Click on the images below for larger versions.

I’m not pricing these pictures in South African Rands anymore as our black government is doing everything it can to devalue our money. The white governments overseeing euros and dollars seem to be just as stupid and so we’ll use ‘old money’, the British pound. To get this Hermanus Koekkoek on your wall you’ll need to pay me the equivalent of GBP 350 000.

Click below for larger versions of this painting:
Hermanus Koekkoek   Hermanus Koekkoek

Ships in a Fresh Breeze – Hermanus Koekkoek
GBP 350.000.00 [includes packaging and postage]

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