Station: [10] Hendrik Willem Mesdag | Ships in the Surf, c. 1893

In the painting “Ships in the Surf”, created by Hendrik Willem Mesdag around 1893, two fishing boats have come to be moored at a beach.A series of other boats from the fleet stretches back to the horizon.While one of the boats has already been received by two sailors standing in the water, the second is still waiting to land.The force of one of the waves rushing towards the shore breaks against the bow of the latter boat, flooding it with thick surf.The rugged daily existence of the fishermen and their life with the sea is impressively captured through the dense clouds of the overcast grey sky, the fluttering dresses of the women persistently remaining on the beach and the roaring waves.

As a painter of seascapes, Henrik Willem Mesdag created studies of Scheveningen’s beach on a daily basis.At the Paris Salon of 1870, his award-winning picture “Les brisants de la Mer du Nord”, which presents a view of the windswept North Sea, hung next to one of Gustave Courbet’s famous pictures of waves.Mesdag’s seascapes are closely related to the rediscovered tradition of Dutch Realism, which became highly influential in The Hague and featured works distinguished by the grey tonality characteristic of Dutch coastal landscapes. The critic Jacob van Santen Kolff coined the term “School of The Hague” and saw this form of painting as a “poetry of grey”.