Dirk Nijland was born in 1881 as the son of the art collector Hidde Nijland and grew up in Dordrecht, a city surrounded by water almost on all sides. Nijland liked to paint water, or rather the flat Dutch landscape with its views over ditches and rivers, estuaries and salt marshes. Although his artistic ambitions were encouraged at home and he was allowed to follow the courses he wanted, he developed largely independently as a draftsman and painter. Apart from a number of roughly pointillated paintings from shortly after 1900, a realistic style for his landscapes and still lifes prevailed from the start. In doing so, he sometimes explicitly opted for the modern landscape such as railway yards and transitions, industrial complexes and harbor sides, a theme that he remained faithful to throughout his life.